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As a father, being truly connected with your son is far more complex than ever before. And that’s exactly why Abey Mokgwatsane, the Vodacom Managing Executive Brand and Communications, has developed a deliberate and focused fatherhood strategy when it comes to his own son.

'Technology is evolving every day and we need to be on our toes all the time about the good and bad aspects of that evolution,' says Mokgwatsane as he addresses the conversation around effective fatherhood from a technological perspective.

It’s a timely conversation, not only in society but also as Mokgwatsane prepares to join 100 other fathers and their young sons at the inaugural Kaizer Chief Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout this August.

This 31 August experience, which is exclusive to Vodacom Red clients, will see Kaizer Chiefs’ fathers and father-figures and their sons connect with their beloved football club like never before as they camp out in style at the Kaizer Chiefs Village at Naturena. The clear message from Vodacom as a “Brand with a Purpose” is to give fathers and sons quality time with each other, under the hashtag #BeAPresentDad.

'We’re bringing together a passion point, which is soccer, and which a lot of fathers and sons enjoy together.  We’re making a statement around how fathers and sons connecting with each other is going to make the world a better place,' says Mokgwatsane.

And it starts with his own son.

'My father and I didn’t have a very open form of communication. So I want to be sure that I’m really connecting with my own son. It’s important these days because there’s not just the issue of you being connected to your children, but there are also so many things that are connected to your children than there were 10 or 20 years ago. On the Internet alone your children have a connection to so many things that are beyond your own viewpoint. So learning from my experience with my father, I have a very open channel of communication with my son.

It’s also from the understanding that he is being bombarded with a lot of communication on a daily basis. So I need to make sure that I balance this out with my perspective and I constantly get feedback from him from what he’s seeing in the world. You find the same thing in corporate culture. It’s no longer sufficient to have quarterly reviews with the people you work with. The new thinking is that it needs to be a daily interaction about their goals and what they need. And that thinking is also manifesting in our personal lives.'

Mokgwatsane doesn’t fear the impact of technology on his son’s life, but is rather using it to create what he says is a much more blended experience of fatherhood.

'I found that a lot of the conversations I’m having with my son are not just about his world. I bring him into my world and the work I do. I share with him some of the challenges I face, and the complexity and difficulty of managing other people who also have their own lives and families. I’m finding that a way to balance my time with him is to bring him into my work. Sometimes he’ll come on a shoot with me and I show him how an advert is made. I think technology enables us to have much more of a blend between work and home life. Yes, it’s important to draw the line and say I’m done with work and now it’s time for my son. But I’m finding technology helps to integrate him into my work life, which I’m really enjoying. For example, my son and I are now enjoying video calls with each other, which brings us closer together.

'But we’ve given him very specific rules and regulations for his screen time. The screen time he has is 50% education and 50% entertainment. So he does the fun Maths and spelling games to earn time to play the entertainment games on his iPad. That’s how we’ve found a way to get around just outright banning him from any screen time, and rather making sure he does something constructive to earn the fun screen time.”

But fatherhood is a two-way process.

'Fathers need to realise that children emulate your behaviour. I heard a great quote that says children are great imitators, so make sure they imitate your greatness. So I am very conscious of even basic things like not using my phone or texting while driving. We have a rule that whenever we are talking it’s eye contact and no devices. We don’t eat with our devices close to us. If we are watching a movie we all watch the movie and are fully engaged. We are quite deliberate about how we manage the time around our devices. And I can’t expect him to do it and I don’t do the same.'

Sport is another obvious connection point for Mokgwatsane and his son, which makes the Kaizer Chief Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout such a perfect fit for him and so many fathers.

'There are three clear things I’m really looking forward to getting out of this experience with my son. First, I want to expose him to children from different backgrounds, some of whom will be sons of professional footballers. I’d like him to get a perspective of those different lives. Second, I want to expose him to a part of my work. I want to show him that my work is not just about cellphones, data and airtime. It’s also about bringing fathers and sons together. I want him to understand the greater purpose of our brand. And finally, I want him to just have fun. To be a boy and enjoy a game he loves with other kids who are just as passionate about soccer.'

It’s an experience that will no doubt prove what Mokgwatsane already knows.

In a world that is making multiple connections with children through a multitude of devices, good old-fashioned dad still remains the most powerful device in terms of shaping a young boy’s future.

To stand a chance to win a place at the Kaizer Chief Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout, please go to www.redrewards.co.za,  click on Red Soccer Rewards and register your entry before 12 August 2019. Exclusive to Vodacom Red.

Follow the conversation using #BeAPresentDad #RedFatherAndSon

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