If you want to keep tabs on your child, or communicate with them when you're not with them, there's another way other than getting them a cellphone that you probably have reservations about.
The Doki watch is not a phone, but it lets you message, call and track your child, and it's a clever and nifty smartwatch for kids aged 6-12 (though I imagine that children from aged 10 and their parents might be ready for smartphones at this stage).
The dokiWatch, distributed here by Quanitfi, is available in four colours, is pretty easy to set up, even though there are no instructions in the box. You charge the watch via a USB cable and download the Doki app onto your smartphone, where you can set up your child's watch via the app, for example adding contacts. I set myself and my son's dad as contacts, which means we can contact Max, he can contact us, and we can both track him via GPS, and get notifications if Max has sent us an SOS alert.
It is via the app that you'll do everything – from tracking location, to sending messages, to setting restrictions.
The watch takes a micro SIM card, and it's easy to insert. This is not an optional step – the watch needs data in order to work. The watch needs to be on in order to be tracked and in order to receive messages and calls, so you can't see where you child is or find out how their day was if the watch isn't powered up and on.
My seven-year-old learnt the functions quite easily, and I imagine most tech-savvy kids won't have a hard time figuring it out, even if they can't read or write fully.
These are the dokiWatch features:
1 Voice and video calling
Wherever you are, you can keep in touch with your child and see how they're doing. You can either chat, or use the video feature to see them too.
2 Text and voice messaging
You can exchange voice messages up to 30 seconds long, and you can text emojis to each other. Only the parent is able to send written text messages.
Track your child using a combination of GPS, GSM and Wi-Fi
4 SOS alerts
In an emergency, kids can press an SOS button, which they must hold down for a few seconds (this safeguards any accidental presses). Once the button is pressed, the contacts will get a notification, followed by a 60-second recording of your child's voice and any background noise. You can also get the location of your child every 60 seconds until the emergency has been cancelled.
5 Geofence/alert area
Receive notifications when your child enters or leaves a preset location, like school, or a party
6 Class mode
Remotely deactivate your child’s dokiWatch at set times during the day so that they can't use it. This is very useful for during class, when kids probably aren't allowed to use any devices.
7 Fitness tracking
The electronic pet, or “dokiPet”, doubles as a fitness tracker with dokiWatch’s built-in accelerometer to encourage kids to stay active and healthy, making dokiWatch a useful tool for parents who want to see their kids using technology in a positive way. Kids can also earn fun achievement badges based on their steps, distance, and calories burned.
What I like
Everything works well – calls are clear, connectivity is great, and it's a "wearable" and easy to use and navigate device.
My son is excited to wear and use it, and has enjoyed taking responsibility for the unit. This is the first watch he's had, and even though it's digital, he's aware of the time and date, and is doing a bit of maths with the time. For example: "It's 6.40am. When am I leaving for school? How many more minutes?"
The battery life is pretty good – the watch lasted three full days of being on.
It's fun! I know it's not the main aim of this device, but it's been a thrill communicating with my son for the last few weeks, and it's not getting old getting emojis, or having my son call me on his way home from school just to say hi. When my son speaks into his watch, he kinda reminds me of Michael Knight from Knight Rider (people from the 80s, you'll remember this one….)
What I don't like
On two occasions, the GPS was slightly off, by about three houses each time. Another time, the app showed that Max was at a clinic about 4km away, when in fact he was sitting next to me. This isn't a big deal when I know exactly where my son is, but it's a problem when I need to know his exact location.
I realise that things need to work when they're on, but it's frustrating that I can't track the watch or my son when it's off.
dokiWatch is available from Takealot for R2999.