For parents with seemingly endless to-do lists, tablets and mobile devices provide a convenient way to keep kids occupied while checking off an item or two.
But many of the apps we use are carefully engineered to be addictive, keeping kids and adults alike from engaging with each other, going outside or setting out to learn something new.
“People’s intentions aren’t bad when they give devices to their children,” said Sahil Kapadia, whose startup, PlayTracking, uses technology to draw kids away from their devices. “But it has an impact. Children disconnect from people more, they stay in their bubbles, and they don’t know how to engage with people.”
I know it’s a bit crazy to use technology to curb technology use, but the idea is to use it to the parent’s advantage.”
When installed on a tablet or mobile device, the PlayTracking app locks children out from the device after they’ve used it for a set amount of time determined by the parent.
The only way for the child to unlock the device is to complete an assigned task, like doing homework, cleaning or going outside. Upon finishing a task, the child can notify parents to check on the task, who can unlock the device again if everything looks good.
“I know it’s a bit crazy to use technology to curb technology use, but the idea is to use it to the parent’s advantage,” said Kapadia. “It keeps the family moving forward as a unit toward their shared goals.”
It also sets boundaries to help curb technology addiction.
As a single parent, Kapadia said he understands the temptation to rely on devices as baby sitters because, well, he’s been there.
I’m trying to create this for other parents like myself.”
“I was trying to make dinner, trying to clean and trying to pay bills,” he said. “I’m trying to create this for other parents like myself.”
Currently at the prototype stage, Kapadia launched a Kickstarter this week to fund development of a full-fledged PlayTracking app. The founder said his overseas development team has been working on the prototype for the past six months.
The PlayTracking prototype is for Android devices only, but Kapadia said the Kickstarter will help him develop an iOS version as well.
In its first version, PlayTracking’s functionality will be limited to locking devices and unlocking them in exchange for chores. But the future roadmap includes a point system that lets siblings compete against each other to complete tasks.
Kapadia said he wants parents to commit to rewarding kids for their work with bonding activities, like doing something fun together.
“The parents are asking the children to help out, so the children should be able to ask their parents for something, too,” he said.