Kids spend anywhere from 5 to 7 hours per day in front of a screen, often without supervision. This app allows parents to easily discover constructive media that fits their family values.
[Tl;dr: A new crowdsourced curation tool can help parents to positively influence the media content their kids consume. A link to the free app is at the bottom of this post.]
Call me a curmudgeon, but I'm a firm believer in strictly limiting the amount and kind of content that my kids are exposed to, whether it's a library book, a video, music, an app, or game, and no amount of hearing "Well, I watched (or played with, read, or owned) XYZ when I was a kid, and I turned out just fine." from others will change my mind.
After all, one of the most important roles that parents play is to protect their kids, no matter if it's from physical, mental, or emotional experiences which expose them to things well beyond their ability to understand, cope with, and respond to.
That's not to say that I believe that we should shelter our kids from everyday human experiences, but rather that it's obvious to us that we wouldn't want to let our 5-year-old or 9-year-old watch an R or PG-rated movie until they were old enough to handle the movie's themes and language, so we naturally filter and curate what types of media comes into our house, so they only get exposed to fitting, age-appropriate, material.
We are also fairly strict about the amount of, and frequency of, screen time, and our two younger kids only get a couple of hours per week total, mostly for videos or basic games such as chess. It's pretty easy, as we don't have a TV, the kids don't have their own computer, and while we do have one tablet with a few kids apps on it, they only use it once a week or so (if that).
However, I know that we're probably outliers when it comes to kids and media, and that many children have quite a bit more access to not only a TV or DVD player, but a computer, tablet, or smartphone as well, and that the amount of screen time that the average American kid gets is huge - 5 to 7 hours per day - much of it unsupervised.
Some of that time may be spent learning, as there are plenty of great educational apps on the market, but by and large, most kids are consuming media and playing games that serve no purpose other than entertainment (which is great when it's within reason, but all too often it's not). And I'm inclined to believe that there is a connection between screen time and 'real world' behavior, and that as the American Academy of Pediatricians states, "it [media] can contribute to numerous health risks" and we as parents need to have a plan as to how much and what types of media our kids consume.
There are some great children's apps, games, and movies out there, but the quantity of digital media available to kids these days through the TV, computer, tablet, and smartphone is staggering, so how can we wade through all of it and find the content that is fitting for our kids' ages, and our own family values, and that offers constructive learning experiences?
It's not for me to say what's appropriate for your kids or your family, and what's right for my home might be different from what's right for your home, so a new app, @Dawn, could be a great way for us as parents to make the most informed decisions about which media our own kids spend their screen time on.
@Dawn is a crowdsourced platform that allows parents to easily rate and identify fitting and age-appropriate apps, games, videos, and other media that also match your family values. Instead of serving as a way to censor or block certain media from their kids, parents can use @Dawn to discover positive apps and games that are most suitable to their children's age and unique character.
"Our technology is called the Valuelizer. Think of an equalizer in a sound system. Its job is to filter out specific sound frequencies so you can change the tone of your music. The Valuelizer works the same way. You set the controls to allow only media fitting your values & beliefs to come through."
The @Dawn app is free (iOS only, Android version coming in early 2015), and more information about the app, the founders, and the reasoning behind this positive media curation tool is available at the Magicalis website or on their Facebook page.
And if you read this far, perhaps you're wondering what my kids spend time doing, since they don't get very much screen time. We have several shelves full of books, board games, dolls, blocks, puzzles, art & craft supplies, and oodles of other toys, as well as a bunch of outdoor stuff like bikes and balls and frisbees, and they can spend hours playing with just mud and water and rocks and sticks and such. However, they aren't any different from most kids, as they still want to watch movies and play with apps and games, even with all of that stuff. We just limit it to what we think is healthy and appropriate.