What’s it Like Having a Connected Kid?

I imagine many parents gave their kids a mobile phone or tablet for Christmas last year and, well, I should know – I was one!

We’ve approached the idea of fitting my kid out with her own phone with some trepidation, even more so than we were about giving her a tablet for her 8th birthday. Somehow, I think, the concept of my kid taking and making her own phone calls or sending and receiving messages that I may or may not be privy to… freaked me out a lot. It’s a part of letting go, I realise, that comes with growing up and, nowadays, a cellphone is almost de rigueur for tweens and teens.

Kids with Cellphones 1 | DigiKids

Now, a month later, I can see why, when I asked the question of fellow parents, so many people told me I needed to get over myself. Yes, of course, we are monitoring my daughter’s cellphone usage. I spent a good amount of time going over what we call “the rules” with her, and outlining that, if anything that falls outside of the limits and boundaries we’ve set down together happens, the device will immediately be taken away from her.

Of course, you know, kids will always surprise you. I thought, when we first discussed giving her a phone, that she’d use it primarily for communicating with people outside our home, including her dad, friends and others. But, in a funny way, it’s actually turned inwards. She uses it mostly at home for games and the occasional Whatsapp fest with friends and family members but when she’s away from home, she uses it a lot more to keep in touch with… me!

This, of course, infinitely pleases a neurotic helicopter mom like myself. Now it’s a lot easier to keep in touch with her when she’s away from home and, slowly, her texting technique and cellphone etiquette is maturing. She knows now that, if I message or call her, she needs to respond. Her text communications with me have been enlightening – I mean, how else would I have figured out that she spells ‘totes’ as ‘toats’? And, she’s becoming more confident in the way she types. That said, she really loves emoticons.

Kids With Cellphones 2 | DigiKids

Kids, as they mature in their communications with other people, go from being directly informative, to learning pace, context and form a little better – it’s nice to see how this is maturing through her text communications with us.

And, as for the ability to play games on the move, of course, she is loving it.

Lastly, I’ll answer the hot topic questions I know you want answers for:

  • No, we didn’t give her a brand spanking new phone. We refurbished one of my old, reliable handsets and wrapped it up beautifully for her, complete with new covers and all her accounts like Gmail and Instagram, pre-installed and set up. This also means that, should she lose it, break it or it is mislaid, it’s not a major financial thing. We trust her with the handset, but, of course, it’s her first one – so mistakes could happen. This was the best way for us to do this, inexpensively.
  • Yes, we do make use of monitoring systems to keep tabs on things but, the best monitoring is done hands on so…
  • She hands her phone in to me, every night, at bedtime. Yes, I check it. No, she doesn’t get to lie in bed with it. Yes, she is happy to do this – we made this rule together.
  • She still has to ask if she can download an app, I then check it out with her, and we download it together.
  • Yes, we put content filters onto everything, including the app store.
  • She is on a prepaid data plan, as all our homes have WiFi connectivity. When we gave her the phone, I loaded it with a small amount of airtime. Because she far prefers using Whatsapp voice notes (and is very confident in using them as she and I have used it a lot on my phone when talking to other people), rather than phone calls, the airtime has barely been touched.
  • Yes, we have set a limit on how much airtime she will be given each month.
Cath Jenkin

As a mom, Cath raises her daughter with a strong focus on technology, as she believes that digital literacy is as important as learning to read. With a long history of creating content for online and print publications, and in particular as a parenting columnist, Cath brings her curious mind... Read more


Hi there

I’m really battling to deal with the idea of kids and phones. I have two daughters, the eldest one is 9 and I just refuse to even consider the idea of a phone. I can dot best to reach her the responsible use of a phone, but her friends parents may not.

I’ve seen what terrible trouble Tweens and teens can get themselves into and just don’t want to go down that road!!


Cath Jenkin

Hi there Gwen,

Thanks for your comment and for reading. I’ve put together a little list of resources for you, that I hope will help:

1) At what age should a child get a mobile phone? http://www.digikids.co.za/at-what-age-should-a-child-get-a-mobile-phone/ – big thing here is, that it’s up to you, your family and your child – you know your child best!
2) A quick and easy guide to monitoring your child’s online life – http://techgirl.co.za/2015/05/10/monitoring-your-childs-online-life/
3) And if you’re looking for a good book to dig into on the subject, I’d recommend Nikki Bush’s Tech Savvy: http://www.digikids.co.za/lets-get-tech-savvy/

I hope these help, and please do get in touch with us if we can assist!


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