Meet the MXit kids

2011-11-11 13:09

Children in 21st-century South Africa are more sedentary than their parents. One reason is cellphone culture. Everyone has one, and MXit rules – especially after midnight. The MXit kids take time out to explain to Sphumelele Mngoma why they’re hooked.

Nathi Shoba used to love karate. But now the 19-year-old prefers to stay in his room and “make friends” on MXit.

“I’m definitely an addict,” says Shoba. “I go into MXit maybe eight times a day. I stay there a long time, but the best times are in the early hours of the morning.”

Shoba, a Grade 11 learner at Mqhawe Secondary School in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, isn’t interested in much else these days – even TV bores him.

“I dread being told to do something because that means time away from MXit, so I just stay in my room. And you are never without a girlfriend either,” Shoba says with a smile.

Zethu Msomi (17) says she cried for a week when her parents took her phone away.

“Let’s just say I was receiving too many calls for my parents’ liking,” she said. Her friend and schoolmate, Zama Dladla (17), bought herself a cellphone when her parents wouldn’t.

“My phone is very busy,” says Dladla. “I have to put it on vibrate when I go home because my parents are always threatening to confiscate it. But I can’t see how I would survive without it. I would miss out on all the gossip and the action.”

Dladla owns two SIM cards. Her Cell C SIM comes in handy when she is low on airtime since she can access MXit for free.

But she reverts to her Vodacom SIM for the “night shift”, when calls are free from midnight until 5am.

Cousins and best friends Zakithi Mkhize (17) and Thandeka Zulu (18) take their cellphones to school – even though they risk having to pay a R100 fine.

This is the penalty their school – Parkhill High in Redhill, Durban – has imposed in an attempt to make learners leave their phones at home.

But the girls say it’s a chance they’ve “just got to take”. “I use my phone 24/7 and cannot imagine my life without it,” a bubbly Mkhize tells City Press.

“We use the phones mostly on MXit and since I’m with Cell C, it is free all the way. But we do a lot of texting and calling friends as well,” adds Zulu.

In primary school, Mkhize played hockey and tennis. But in high school, she has abandoned all sport. Her reasons?

Sport is not compulsory and her smartphone is a “more attractive option”. Both girls say they watch TV as soon as they get home from school. Zulu says she watches until “very late”, after which MXit takes centre stage until the wee hours of the morning.

Homework? That gets done during class registration at school the next day.

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