The world of apps for kids is overflowing. Thanks to technology, books and games have become multi-dimensional and can be really exciting. Developers are able to take a well-known children’s book or an original story and turn it into a colorful creation replete with dancing figures, drifting clouds, talking flowers and a screen that takes pictures, so that just like the game apps, they offer speed, pleasure, color and music all at the same time.
Do these applications truly encourage children’s active participation?
All this innovation is now a part of every household and children and adults are armed with iPads or iPhones so that everyone is connected and interacting. The reality though, can be quite different as sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between activity and passivity. Almost every application claims to involve the kids in the game or the story and stimulate them to take the initiative. But does an overload of interactions, colors, music,
3-D and endless game options in one application really encourage kids to be active? Or perhaps it is quite the opposite – when everything is laid out for you and each character in the story rolls around and does a backflip at the touch of a fingertip, might it be that we are actually making our kids more passive? When they see elements on screen where they need to participate but this participation really involves no cognitive or creative thinking on their part, then how is this valuable for kids’ learning and fun? What’s really happening is that kids are not being asked to use their brains but are just being over stimulated with no benefit for them.
Which apps do actually encourage kids to actively think?
There are apps that do encourage creativity and enable kids to create something. This can happen in a structured story or in an open and ‘free’ way. An application that actually asks the kids to perform a task is one that truly encourages thinking and creativity.
When we are talking about a game in which the players are not asked for a solution or an act of thinking or of coordination, but are just overwhelmed by constant stimulation and incessant interactivity, they become passive. The fact that an application encourages touching, pressing or dragging does not mean the player is mentally active, but on the contrary, is a passive user who is easily distracted and whose only purpose is to discover all the interactions hiding behind each icon, figure or flower blinking away on the screen.
As it is in life – so it is in the application
When we choose a computer game, or even a game or book in the shop next door, we make sure that the book content suits our worldview, that it conveys messages and values that are important to our kids’ education as well as their pleasure. We make sure the computer games do not encourage violence or pornography, and we are happy to discover that a game has some added value such as promoting creativity, cultivating scientific thinking or providing important general knowledge about astronomy, the natural world around us etc.
The world of apps is very tempting for all of us – parents, kids and developers, we are all still amazed and curious about this advanced technology that allows us to do so much. Nevertheless, we must remember that among the apps we choose, there are some that seem highly attractive but might have nothing to offer beyond over-stimulation, and there are those that can help kids advance, because they do promote creativity, stimulate thinking and important values.
Bottom line – choose wisely and critically from among the abundance on offer.
Remember that in the world of apps, just like everywhere else –
“all that glitters is not gold”!