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'There is an emerging trend for very young children (toddlers and pre-schoolers) to use internet connected devices, especially touchscreen tables and smartphones,' said a 2013 study published by LSE London, EU Kids Online. 

In the intervening years, South African preschools have jumped onboard the digital train, and many are encouraging their pint-sized students to use tablets for educational purposes at school and at home.

While the jury is out on the benefits of children using this kind of technology under the age of five, the wide range of educational apps, and the exposure to new areas of learning that tablets provide to older children are widely considered to be an advantage to primary-school age learners.

As long as exposure is balanced, and screen time does not come at the expense of face-to-face time with parents or caregivers, experts say that tablets provide an additional layer of learning for students. Through the internet, tablets connect children to the rest of the world and can give them real-world examples of the principles they learn about in theory.

So if you’ve decided that your school-age child needs a tablet, you are certainly not alone. Here’s everything you need to know before you buy. 

Which tablet?

The Power Tab 10 is the latest tablet from Vodacom, and offers excellent value for money. For just R2 299 prepaid, this 10-inch Android-powered tablet comes with all the features you’d expect from a pricier device.

If you’re not prepared to fork out that amount on a present for your kid, consider this as a gift for the whole family. You can expand the storage with a microSD memory card, so there’ll be plenty of space for everybody’s games, photos and music, and it’s more than adequate as a device for both kids and parents.

The Smart Tab 3G, also from Vodacom, is a cheaper proposition, at R949 cash. It’s got a smaller display (7 inches) but built-in 3G is a big plus, especially at this price. 

If you’re looking for a good-value, inexpensive tablet for your child’s exclusive use, this one wouldn’t be a bad option, since it’s positioned for entry-level use.

Then there’s the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A. Although it’s substantially more expensive than the Vodacom tablets (at R5 799 cash), it looks great, is ultra-portable and has excellent capabilities when it comes to drawing and sketching, thanks to the S Pen, the digital stylus that comes with it. If your child is into graphic design and all things arty, this would be a wonderful gift.

The iPad Mini Wi-Fi Cellular 16GB is in a similar price range to the Galaxy Tab A, and if you’re a brand-conscious family, it will probably be worth it for you to spend the extra R100 or so for this tablet. Though it’s small, at 7 inches, it’s got everything you or your child could need in a tablet, with Apple’s beautiful screen and slick performance.

And, back in the more reasonable price range, is the Alcatel Onetouch Pop 7. It costs R1 899 and is fun, portable and lightweight. It’s got 3G and Wi-Fi capabilities, and multiple users can customise their own unique settings, including background and home screen. So it’s the perfect tablet for the whole family to use.

Any additional expenses?

Don’t forget to insure your child’s tablet against breakage, damage or theft. Vodacom offers laptop and portable device insurance, and will replace your or your child’s tablet within 24 hours. It’s affordable and gives you total peace of mind.

Read more about the Vodacom Portable Device Insurance cover here »

How can I control online activity?

These free apps from Vodacom will help you to keep tabs on your child’s tablet.

  • My Vodacom App –  allows you to view your bill, and view airtime, data and messaging balance
  • Vodafone Guardian  – safeguards your child from inappropriate content and cyberbullying

Freebies for boosting learning

Every new Vodacom contract and upgrade comes with free Top Dog vouchers. Top Dog gives you access to content for grades 4-12. It includes animated lectures, online tests that are automatically marked, tutorials, mock exams, and even live chats with educators. 

Learners in grades 10-12 should also check out Vodacom e-school, Vodacom's free educational tool. It's zero-rated for Vodacom customers, which means it won't even consume data. 

Shop for these and other tablets on Vodacom Online now »» 

Please note: all details were correct at time of publication. Deals and prices are subject to change without notice.

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