Screen-Free Week: a false good idea? FREE iPad and iPhone app to help parents monitor their children’s screen time

CotCotCot-apps.com publishing - Appy Tips and Trick for Kids on the iPadWe have decided to make our app “Appy Tips and tricks for kids” free this month (may 2015). It aims to help other parents discuss do’s and don’ts on the tablet… and subtly put a set of rules around the device. It’s simple, fun and Devi Mallal’s drawings are gorgeous! And, oh, it’s FREE for now.

© Des Carabistouilles Sprl. Cannot be used without authorisation

© CotCotCot-apps.com

I’ve been thus monitoring some of my favorite blogs around the topic of Screen-Free Week this year and the general view is that (1) yes, it’s a good idea but (2) it should not be used to antagonize connected families.

Common Sense Media published a few articles debating pros and cons among which Ingrid Simone’s viewpoint on why her family is not doing Screen-Free Week. “Being mindful of screens and their influence on a day-to-day basis” sums it up pretty well, adding to it that “Quality time together can include screens” and “The important thing is screen-time awareness.” .

© Des Carabistouilles Sprl. Cannot be used without authorisation

© CotCotCot-apps.com

GeekMom lists her five reasons to say no and it is a fresh viewpoint. Her main argument is that “Screen-Free Week projects a value judgement that can be polarizing.” She writes the following: “I don’t know who came up with the idea that by giving up screens for a week kids will rediscover the joys of “playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends,” but clearly it is someone who is either technologically illiterate or in the business of fear.”… and, unfortunately, we can only agree with this. .

(added May 18) In addition, David Kleeman at Kidscreen.com – in an editorial entitled “Screen-Free Week” misses the Big Picture” –  mentions that “screen time is a complex concept, and navigating the array of devices and accompanying flood of content demands media literacy. Families, schools, and child care centers need tools for mindful evaluation of habits (…) and strategies for making thoughtful choices. They need prompts for productive co-viewing or co-play, and vocabulary for discussing what they consume or create.”

Finally, Planet Smarty Pants provides a set of concrete and common sense recommendations to have a Screen Smart Life, among which:

  • Turn TV off when you are not watching ;
  • NO screens in the bedroom ;
  • Establish your screen time policy ;
  • Decide what content is appropriate ;
  • and Limit the number of apps or games
    … to which I would have liked a distinction between books apps, educational apps and leisure apps (i.e. games), eliminating all games for adults! But it certainly is a “no brainer” for technology literate families. .

All this to come to our main point that we are rather in favour of helping families and professionals manage and evaluate the content on tablets rather than imposing our ideas, issuing edicts and defining screen-free periods.

Oh, but I’m late, I’m late!!!! It’s time for me to refer you to our app for toddlers – Appy Tips and tricks for kids – and tell you to play and catch as many carrots as you can with your kids 😉

It may be the perfect occasion to discuss screen time with your kids and how they can learn how to manage it!

“Appy Tips and Tricks for Kids” available on the App Store

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“Appy Tips and Tricks for Kids” available on the App Store

Ground rules for the family tablet

One of my very first blog post, when creating our start-up CotCotCot-apps.com in 2011, has been about setting up ground rules for the iPad. As parents of a little girl, we’ve been terribly excited to be offered an iPad by my husband’s employer back in 2010 but very quickly we’ve had to adapt to this additional screen in the house and lay down a couple of ground rules.

We all know how fast a device can suffer and eventually die from a toddler’s uncontroled behavior (I could tell you how my computer got damaged by my baby’s bottle of milk)…

However, it was not only a matter of preserving the tablet’s life… but also a question of kids’ education with regards to screen and media consumption.

We thus thought about a list of potential rules from which parents could pick and choose and adapt to create their own “family iPad use policy”:

  • the iPad’s screen is fragile and doesn’t really like to be spread with jam
  • iPad usage has to be earned (it’s a reward)
  • Ready, Steady, Calculate! (about screen time)
  • Learn to reduce sound level and avoid headphones as long as you can
  • The app store is off limits
  • Consider cutting off Internet access!
  • How to save the device’s battery!

That said, rules are not fun and they can sometimes be quite counterproductive or source of conflicts with our children (not to mention our partners)! That’s when I started to think about drawing pages that kids could color, cut, customize with their parents to form an acceptable list of rules… either available for free on our website or as a coloring book app.

That’s when I met Devi Mallal, a very talented Australian artist, a few of months later to discuss about this new project. We agreed very quickly that we should turn into an app but not just a plain coloring book app… In the end, we singled out 5 simple rules  and developed an app with small games and a coloring page.

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Sources: 

You can read more on our website: What sort of iPad / iPod usage guidelines can I set-up?

In addition, if you want to read additional information about Kids’ screen time, Carisa Kluver from Digital Media Diet is frequently publishing very interesting blog posts on that topic at Digital Media Diet.