Thursday, June 6, 2013

Whose lives are kid apps improving?

photo by Dick Jensen
I was recently in a meeting with an exec of a tech company and he was talking about how improving lives is a main goal of the company. When it came to apps for kids, he used a now classic anecdote of a family at a restaurant with a crying kid, whipping out the iPad immediately calmed the kid, adults were able to enjoy their meal and have a conversation while kid's eyes were glued to the screen. Goal accomplished - parents (aka, the customer) had a better experience. Really?

1) Probably not surprisingly, my first thought was, "Ahem, you forgot about the kid." There've been many news articles questioning just this. Often using the same anecdote and asking whether using tablets as a babysitter or in general is beneficial for kids socially and cognitively. If you are reading this blog, I'm sure I don't have to go further. I'm not the first to ask, but where's the research?! We have evidence that kids like tablets and find them highly engaging. We have evidence that tablets may not have the same negative social behavior associated with video games. We have evidence that kids can learn from well-designed content on the tablet as much as traditional methods. But what we do not have evidence of (at least not to my knowledge) is that kids can learn better from tablets than traditional methods (not counting case studies and studies lacking control groups). So basically, we know that we are probably not harming kids' lives, but not sure if tablets have lived up to it's potential of improving kids' lives. What are tech companies doing to make sure we're actually improving the lives of kids?

2) The parents. I do not doubt the anecdote. I've seen it happen. You've seen it happen. But a new report (Parenting in a Digital Age: A National Survey) shows that we might think this is happening way more often than it really is. Most parents (70%) do not believe that mobile devices makes parenting easier. Only 37% report using mobile devices to calm their children rather than toys or activities (88%), books, (79%), and TV (78%). So maybe not improving the lives of parents as much as we thought.

Part of the problem for why parents may not be relying on mobile technology as much as other resources may be because parents believe books, toys, and activities are more educational than media and technology. This finding is in line with older surveys. I am however, surprised that this has not changed. I wonder if the same books and activities were available on the tablet, would parents still choose the physical version over the tablet version. Are tablets viewed as less educational because parents haven't found the right content, or is it something about the device? 

If parents believe mobile tech is educational, they may then provide the support and reinforcement that could maximize children's learning. To improve both parents' and children's lives with mobile technology, parents should first start believing that mobile technology can be beneficial for their kids.

The Survey Spot
Take this quick survey on parental gating on apps! If you've at all thought about children's privacy and safety while playing apps please take a minute to do the survey. Read the parental gating post for some context.

Click here to take the survey!!
The survey's for parents, teachers, developers, and whoever else. The more responses, the better the results - Help spread the word!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.