It is no more a dystopian vision where digital screens will be in every room, perhaps making us dependent on technologies. The interconnected devices now permeate every floor and every room of most households in the modern world. Given the crucial years where children are expected to pick up the most fundamental and essential habits for future success, it is now more important than ever to give extra attention to the formative years of brain development.
Parents who are now enrolling their children in preschool mostly belong to generation X or Y, and have already either seen the transition to the digital world or have grown up immersed in a highly connected setting. Many parents, no doubt, have spent time enjoying the virtual realities of an immersive video game. These games can range from role-playing, racing simulation, city building or simply Tetris. But, as parents, which yardstick do we use to measure the utility of a video game in today’s environment for our young ones?
The primary question that arises in the minds of a parent may simply have to do with ‘content’ more than the type of video game a child plays. For instance, it is now more convenient to switch between apps on a phone or tablet, making it almost instantaneous to watch the latest toy review on Youtube or revert to a game of car racing on the mobile phone.
Nevertheless, the question about the type of a video game that is beneficial for a child, if at all, still lingers. Most young children do not possess the dexterity to operate a video game remote or computer to interact with a game. This makes using a phone or tablet to access, use and even share an entertaining app an enticing and easily accessible possibility.
The current trend revolves around the financing model of an app that provides entertainment to a child. For instance, a game that teaches children simple addition through an app could be free or paid. The free app is interjected with ads that target the age group the app is designed for, making children an easy target to market goods and services and converting children to ambassadors for the proposed advertiser. The paid app, even if it is for learning, may have little or no advertising, keeping the learning experience ‘pure.’
As parents, it is important to keep tabs on what type of app the children are using, the type of advertising they are being exposed to and what alternatives are available. Paying for a learning app, which could be a mix of a traditional video game and a learning activity, may not always be a good idea. So weighing the pros and cons at the time the app is downloaded can have greater consequences than may initially appear.