At iMagine Machine we are always trying to push the boundaries on what apps we can make to enhance learning and creativity. As parents we all know that getting children to focus and concentrate will be paramount to their success in the future. So how can apps help with this when so many of us see our children trying to do so many things at once? It’s not unusual to see a child playing with an app while the TV is on. It’s called media multitasking some have started to question and explore how all this affects children’s learning.
The key finding on media multitasking is that American kids are spending 6.5 hours a day using media but packing in 8.5 hours of media within that time. Brain scans show that children who are multitasking are absorbing and processing less information. On the other hand, we know that kids who multitask can do things more quickly and have quicker reaction times.
At iMagine Machine we have decided to create apps that can promote focus. We are calling this the ‘slow app’ movement. Every app we make has to fulfill this criteria. As someone once said, just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean you have to smash everything. It’s the same with apps. Not every character needs to be swipe-able and tap-able with everything singing and dancing.
Our newest app, The Monsters Family, is a case in point. It has been designed so that preschoolers must focus on a single game with no distractions. Even the voices of the characters within the app speak slowly and calmly. We built in lots of great rewards and virtual prizes to keep it exciting but it isn’t manic in any way.
Faces iMake, our multiple award winning app has received rave reviews from parents of children with special educational needs. Their feedback is that it is a calming and immersive app and they are amazed by the focus it promotes as well as the fantastic and beautiful creations their children make. With Faces iMake the child sets the pace and not the other way around.
Our next app to come out is going to take the idea of ‘slow apps’ even further. With Wince – Don’t Feed the WorryBug, we have created an app that is all about getting children to explore their feelings about worry. We can’t wait to see the reactions and discussions from teachers, parents and hopefully professionals working with children.
So my advice to parents of younger children is to choose apps that are designed to keep kids engaged and not because the app is packed with overwhelming choices. Is the app engaging because it is trying to ‘hook’ them with unnecessary elements? Or is it engaging because of the amazing things your child can do with the app.
Andrea Dinnick is a partner at iMagine Machine. She started her career as a broadcast journalist and television producer; she eventually moved into children’s television. Each of the apps from iMagine Machine are designed to increase focus; the developers distracting elements when designing their apps.