Like many kids these days, my 9-year-old daughter has a number of iOS hand-me-downs, ranging from old iPads to iPhones that are no longer activated. To me, these were just cool (“free”) toys to give her so that she could play games and have fun. At the time it didn’t occur to me it would fundamentally change the way she communicates with the world.
It started when one of her friends told her about Kik Messenger so that they could “text” each other. The idea of using written words to communicate with her friend in real time captivated her in the same way that my friends and I obsessed over walkie-talkies when we were kids.
We all know that teens are texting a lot (an average of 60 times a day in the latest Pew Research study in 2011), but there’s not as much information about there about younger kids. You might think that just because your child doesn’t have a cell phone they’re not using this kind of communication, but you’d probably be surprised.
I wasn’t bothered by her using the app. In fact, what I saw was that it actually made her think more about writing, spelling, and grammar in order to make sure her friends understood her. Sometimes she uses internet shorthand, but other times she writes in standard English, so the app is helping her to develop both skills.
And it was such an easy way for her to communicate that she never even considers actual phone calls – why would she when she can simultaneously conduct several conversations at the same time with Kik Messenger? It’s yet another example of how our digital age has caused us to think differently about communication.
Here’s where it really gets interesting, though. Not only did the app change the way she communicated, it taught her about the power of sharing and “going viral.” Simply by telling people about Kik and encouraging them to use it, she quickly added new people that she could talk to – kids in the neighborhood, her brother, and even grandma!
Within a month, she had 12 people she could talk to on the app, including a few kids that she told about Kik as soon as she met them. Even though they barely knew each other at first, using the app has kept them connected.
Her quick success in spreading the app around made me really think – when was the last time I had influenced 12 people to download and use an app? Maybe my daughter had a lot to teach me.