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Family Tech Update
8 minutes | Oct 30, 2020
A Parents’ Guide to Among Us
This is a Parents’ Guide to Among Us This guide is intended to inform parents to help them make quality decisions for their families. The rating is based on my opinion of playing Among Us and viewing others playing the game as well. The rating below is based on the game content. Online interactions will always increase the risk of unwanted content. Violence – 3 Language – 4 Sexual Content – 5 Positive Message – 2 Monetization -2 Total Score – 16 out of 25 (The higher the rating, the safer the game is for kids.) ESRB Rating – Among Us has an ESRB rating of 10+. It is rated 9+ in the app stores and Common Sense Media gives it a rating of 10+. About the Game Among Us is an online multiplayer game of social deduction, teamwork, and betrayal. You play as crewmates on a space ship or space station who are trying to prepare the ship for take off. You have tasks that you all must complete to win the game. The catch is that there is an imposter Among Us. This (or these) imposter(s) can sabotage your efforts to prepare your ship, they can also kill you or your crewmates. When a dead body is found, a meeting is called. The entire crew discusses what has happened and what they’ve seen that could give hints as to who the imposter is. They then all vote and if someone gets a majority of votes, they are ejected from the ship. If that person was an imposter, the crew wins, otherwise, it’s back to the ship to complete your tasks and hope the imposter doesn’t get to you first. This game has a little bit of everything. There are simple puzzles, social interactions, mystery, and even some opportunity to be a little dark by killing your friends in-game. The graphics are simple and a bit silly, but the gameplay is so fun that it doesn’t matter. This is truly a social game and cannot be played on your own. There is a “freeplay” mode in which you can explore the map and get familiar with puzzles but it is really just for preparing to play online multiplayer. Violence One of the key themes in Among Us is murder. The imposter is trying to sabotage the ship by whatever means necessary. This usually includes killing crew members. You kill by simply tapping or clicking an icon when you’re close enough to a crewmate. There is then a short animation of your murder. Sometimes you slice them in half, sometimes your small companion (in-game purchase) will shoot them, and sometimes a spear-like tongue will come from you and pierce them in the face. While the animations are a bit graphic, they aren’t really bloody or gory, and they very cartoon/silly. The characters don’t look like humans, they are better described as colorful walking spacesuits so when they are killed, there isn’t much realism. Language There is no dialog or narration in Among Us. This means that there is no adult language in the game itself. This is a game, however, that is meant to be played with other people over the internet. When you play a multiplayer game online you are always opening yourself up to unsavory language. In Among Us, this happens in the chat which is used to discuss murders and vote out crewmates. There is a censor mode that is on by default. This censor will use symbols to block out adult language and other inappropriate comments. This doesn’t mean that players don’t use these words. You’ll often see sentences with words asterisked out and most of us can tell by the number of symbols and the context of the sentence what words were meant. It is nice that a censor is included and on by default, it is simple to deactivate with one click/tap and is not password protected. Sexual Content Again, there is no sexual content in Among Us. The style of the game doesn’t lend itself to that kind of material. This is another issue, however, that is greatly impacted by online play. While the censor mentioned above will block some sexual comments, most make it through. While playing the game I saw many players with suggestive usernames. Nothing obvious but definitely innuendo. When these names were commented on in chat, however, they were mostly met with annoyance by other players who just wanted to play the game and were therefore not amused. In other words, there will always be people who think their immature sexual jokes and comments are funny but in such a social game you’ll also find a majority of players who aren’t interested in that kind of humor. These players usually kick out or shut down the inappropriate players pretty quickly. Positive Message I guess we can talk about teamwork and trust here but in reality, this game is just all about having fun. There is no real moral to Among Us, it is intended to be a clone of the classic party game Mafia but set in space. Playing with friends is easy through their local or private game settings and this allows for kids to have fun with friends even though we can’t be around each other all of the time these days. I think this is what made Among Us the breakout game of 2020 even though it has already been released for two years. Monetization Among Us does have in-game purchases but they aren’t game-changing. You can buy packs of costumes, skins, and even pets. The prices are between $1 and $3 per pack and the game is definitely playable without spending more than the $4.99 it cost on the PC. The mobile version (free for Apple and Android) has ads that can be removed for $1.99. I recommend removing these ads because some of the games advertised should, in my opinion, be rated for adults only. What Parents Should Know Among Us is a game that I have been playing quite often lately. It is easy to pop in and do a ten or fifteen minute round and then log off. I have played in public rooms with friends as well, that was quite fun as we were able to work together (trying not to cheat) to complete tasks and win. It can be a time drainer as you always want to play another round. I find myself saying “one more round” a few times before I actually quit the game. Like Fortnite or other online multiplayer games, kids aren’t going to want to drop out in the middle of a game so giving them a warning about getting off their screen will be better than saying, “Put it away, now!” Trust me, you’ll have less conflict if you say “Be finished after this round, alright?” and then hold them to that. The only real danger in this game is from strangers online. While that is always a concern with online multiplayer games, rounds are so short and fast-paced in Among Us that there isn’t much time for “grooming” or bullying especially since there is no private or direct messaging. You can stay in the same “Lobby” to play with the same people but it is so easy to back out and go into another game if you need to that I wouldn’t expect too much trouble from people in chat in Among Us. As with most games, my recommendation is that parents understand Among Us, how it works, and what their kids like about it. Know who they are playing with online and if they are playing with strangers, be sure they feel comfortable coming to you if they see something that makes them feel strange. This game is simple enough and quick enough that many parents should be able to play along with their kids some as well. Do this. It would be really fun for you to get into their world a little bit, plus you may just enjoy the game yourself. The post A Parents’ Guide to Among Us appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
6 minutes | Oct 14, 2020
We Bought Four Amazon Echo Dots!
Well, it is Prime Day and as usual, there are some deeply discounted items available on Amazon. My family usually looks but doesn’t buy on Prime Day, hoping to be able to predict the discounts we may see on Cyber Monday or Black Friday in a few weeks. We especially avoid any smart speaker or digital assistant hardware since we have always had (well informed) privacy issues and concerns. This year it has been different. We caved and bought Amazon Echo Dots for the whole family. Here’s why. They’ll Be Perfect for Our New Home Our forever family home is being built and we are planning a move-in just a few months from now. We are going to have more space for the six of us than we have ever had, especially in the kids’ rooms, the master suite, and the kitchen/dining great room. We’ll be a bit more spread out than we’ve ever been and the Echo has some great options for communicating throughout your home without having to scream up the stairs or down the hallway. The intercom feature was a deal sealer for both my wife and myself. The kids are pretty excited too. Digital Homeschool Help More of us are homeschooling than ever now and with four kids, all doing school work nearly every day, we need help sometimes. YouTube can be great to present some complicated concepts in helpful ways (7th-grade math, anyone) but my kids looking at screens and using a Google Search for spelling or calculator solutions isn’t the safest proposition. Alexa (the Virtual Assistant on Amazon Echo) will answer your spelling, language arts, science, and math questions with no risky search results or screen use at all. It is more important for my kids to know how to get information than it is that they know the info when they pass a grade. Alexa and other Virtual Assistants are the new waves of information access and they aren’t going away. They’re only getting smarter and faster. Less Screen Time My kids, like all kids, love to sit around and look at a phone or tablet. We are constantly having to get on to them about their obsessive behavior. We try to set better examples, we don’t always succeed, but giving them alternatives is very helpful. The Echo Dot is a smart speaker without a screen. At night, when the kids want to listen to a podcast or music for bedtime they can ask Alexa to play it for them instead of having their screens in their faces right up to when they fall asleep. Studies have shown this isn’t good for their sleep and can actually very detrimental to their development. With parental controls on the subscription services we use and on Alexa itself, we can ensure that our kids aren’t looking at their screens and are only listening to music and podcasts we’ve approved of. Safety and Security Upgrades All of this is great but digital safety and data security are always an issue. Especially with artificial intelligence that is designed to learn about you in order to be more useful to you. There is an obvious trade-off. You’re giving it information in exchange for convenience. I believe most of us consider that an acceptable exchange, considering Alexa and Google Home have been some of the fastest tech product to be integrated into people’s homes. The truth is that we have been making this exchange for a long time without really thinking about it. Every post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, every search on Google, and every purchase or browsing session on Amazon has been used to build a database of advertising information about you. This can be scary to many but in all honesty, that ship has sailed and you raised the sails for it to do so. When you use these sites, you allow them access to your information. Alexa is no different and my family has considered the risks and decided it’s worth it. First of all, we already get targeted ads because we do so much of our shopping on Amazon and searching on Google. Secondly, the latest models of Amazon Echo Dot have added features like a hardware button to turn off the microphone that makes us feel like we can avoid being listened to when we don’t want to be listened to. Risk/Reward When you narrow it down it is a consideration of opportunity cost. You have an opportunity for convenience but it will cost some of your info. At a $19.99 price point, the Echo Dot is a great deal right now on Prime Day so we bought four of them. They’ll be here in a couple of days and I’ll set one up and let you know how it all goes. Stay tuned for my (late but in-depth) review of the Amazon Echo Dot as a tool for controlling kids’ screen time. If you shop the Amazon Prime Day today, consider using http://smile.amazon.com and signing up to support our non-profit, Four Point Families. You’ll have to search for Four Point Families and select it as the organization you’d like to partner with. Then Amazon will send .5% of your purchase our way to help us continue to protect families. Thanks. The post We Bought Four Amazon Echo Dots! appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
8 minutes | Aug 11, 2020
2020 Back To School Tech Safety Checklist
This school year is sure to be unlike any other. We are facing a global pandemic causing many schools to shut down and send students online. Parents shaming others for their decisions to send or not to send kids to the classroom. Political upheaval in an election year, and racial outrage all over the country are causing stress levels to increase too. There has never been a time when protecting our kids’ minds and hearts has been so critical for their education. This Back to School Tech Safety Checklist can help you enjoy the 2020 school year with your kids instead of losing your mind. Back to School Tech Safety Checklist Accountability Software I hardly ever write an article about protecting your children on the internet without mentioning accountability software. This software will securely monitor the sites being visited on a computer or mobile device and report anything inappropriate. Most of the time this software allows you to customize the sensitivity of the system so that you aren’t being alerted for things that aren’t actual threats. Our favorite software, Accountable2You, allows you to adjust settings on multiple devices and will send you an email or text when something you don’t approve of has been visited. If the site wasn’t what the algorithm thought it was, simply login to the Accountable2You site and adjust the settings for that site so you won’t be alerted for it anymore. Your child will likely be doing more and more work for school on their computer. (As if they weren’t already doing a ton of schoolwork online.) This means that they’ll be searching the web and using web based cirriculum. Accountability software allows you to give them the freedom to use their Chromebook or PC knowing you’ll be alerted if they happen upon something not intended for kids or education. You can even set up certain sites on “blacklists” that will alert you. This means their favorite gaming site or YouTube can be put on the list so you’re notified if they’re wasting more time than they should be. Home Network Filter Monitoring what your kids see online is a good start. It is definitly step one, in my opinion. Step two, or maybe step 1.5, is a content filter for your home network. A lot of newer internet routers and modems come with content filters that can easily be set up from an app on your phone. These filters will block most adult content from showing up on your child’s device. We’ve all had that experience where a seemingly innocent Google search resulted in an assault on our eyeballs with some crazy adult site that seems to have been intentionally named to show up if you had a typo in the search bar. Filters can keep those nafarious sites from showing up. Even if they are sought out intentionally. Remember that a home network filter will protect your child on your home wifi connection. When they disconnect from it and use cellualar data, the protection will be gone. There are filter options for that, though. Circle is one of my favorite options. Bark is also a good resource since they have added time limits and content filters recently. Screen Time Limits Speaking of time limits, that is also something you need to consider while your kids are spending so much time using technology for school. The good news is that not all screen time is created equal. Experts are saying that creative or educational screen time for our elementary aged and older kids can be beneficial compared to time spent playing games or consuming video content. This means you can probably still give your son a bit of time on Minecraft or Fortnite after they’ve already been doing school work on the computer for four hours. Gaming can relieve stress, playing games online with friends can provide some social interaction that they aren’t getting if they’re not going to school every day. These things are benefits of recreational screen time. Also, creativity can be stimulated by use of their screens. Minecraft is a great example, if your child is building a world in the game they’re doing a lot of important critical thinking and creative reasoning which is good for them. I encourage you to be aware of how much time your kids are spending on a screen and use features like Screen Time or Family Link to limit social media, entertainment, and gaming but don’t freak out about the extra time spent learning online. Plenty of “Green Time” Green Time is simply defined as time spent outside. Our kids need to run around, play, and enjoy the outdoors. Your younger kids can enjoy time on a playground or just running around playing kid games at the park while your older kids enjoy a sport, hike, or some other recreational activity. There has been research to show that green time improves attention span, relieves stress, and we have known for years that it helps kids’ physical health as well. Build in “Green Time” breaks for your kids during their online school day. If the school schedules their day for them, make sure you allow for time outside when the school schedule has ended. You’ll see them have better health, get better grades, and even have a better attitude. If you’re spending all day at home with them this year, you’ll be super grateful for that last benefit. Communication I emphasise the importance of communication in nearly every post I write, podcast episode I record, and in person presentation that I do. You have to talk to your children about their digital wellbeing. Kids are smarter about these things than you think. You may be surprised at how much they want to do the right thing. Encourage them to come to you when they see something inaproppriate, tell them you’re on their team and want them to have the best school year possible despite the crazy circumstances. Help them know you are a safe place to come about their digital lives and they’ll be grateful to know you are there to support them. Adapt and Enjoy! If I have learned anything during this crazy year its that you have to adapt and be abe to enjoy life right where you are. Hopefully these tips can help you enjoy this extra time with your kids. After all, when you count how long you have with them by school years rather than days, you may be happy that you got this time with them during this crazy phase of life. The post 2020 Back To School Tech Safety Checklist appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
5 minutes | May 5, 2020
Tik Tok Parental Controls | What You Need to Know
TikTok is the biggest app right now in every app store with over 2billion downloads. They have added some parental controls. This video and podcast episode outline some things you should know while setting these controls up. Below is a link to a great step by step for using these parental controls. Bark App Management: TikTok The parental controls on TikTok allow you to lock privacy settings, keeping strangers from making friend requests, sending messages, and even seeing videos. You must use your child’s account to give yourself permission to set up parental controls. This means you must have a TikTok account yourself if you’re going to use the parental control settings. Previously your child’s account could be set to private, but they could change the settings per video and post publically regardless of your settings. Do TikTok Parental Controls Allow you to be Hands Off? No parental control is a substitute for parental involvement in their child’s online experience. Be sure they know they can come to you to discuss things that make them feel uncomfortable or go against your rules. Should your kids use TikTok? If they are under 13 no. If they are under 16, maybe yes but with parental controls. If they are over 16, then you should be discussing their digital health with them and trusting them to make quality decisions as they grow into adults. Thanks for checking out this article. You can visit BecauseFamily.org/partnership to support our work to protect children and teenagers by bridging the technology gap between them and their parents. You can donate, support our affiliates, or just share our ministry with your friends. Thank You. The post Tik Tok Parental Controls | What You Need to Know appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
10 minutes | Apr 22, 2020
How COVID 19 is Changing Kid/Family Media
This is an audio article: Listen to the full article below. How COVID 19 is Changing Kid/Family Media Click here for the full Tech Crunch Interview Popular kids apps now see 24hr screen time access Less education on screens and more entertainment More companies are adding kid and family content to their platforms Kids are spending time with each other in “virtual environments.” Kids miss their friends This was already a trend, now it has been accelerated Tech companies are seeing kids as innovative inspiration for their products The tech industry will see a major boom after this COVID19 crisis. Large public events are taking place in digital spaces (Roblox awards show had 600,000 kids in attendance.) What Parents Should Know This isn’t going away. This dependence on Technology was already becoming the new normal. It is now been accelerated due to lockdown. Don’t expect this to change. Become Familiar With Your Kids’ Technology You can’t be blind to the connected, digital world your kids live in. Focus on the difference between productive/educational time and educational time. It’s about quality of time spent more than the quantity. The post How COVID 19 is Changing Kid/Family Media appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
5 minutes | Apr 17, 2020
2020 Kid and Family Tech Trends
This is an audio article from BecauseFamily and Family Tech Blog. Listen to the full article below. Highlights and Links: Kid Online Media Trends Roblox has 120mil users and is worth 4bil dollars Games are shifting to social Kids are a new audience online, companies are discovering ways to attract them. Kids see no difference in life online vs offline Tech Crunch Interview: https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/07/techcrunch-live-childrens-media/ The post 2020 Kid and Family Tech Trends appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
4 minutes | Apr 10, 2020
What the heck is a Quibi?
We’ve all seen ads for Quibi and it has officially launched. So what the heck is a Quibi? I first heard about Quibi at CES in 2019. I wasn’t sure what it was all about except that a lot of celebrities from different genres were endorsing (and likely investing) in the app. Turns out Quibi is a video streaming app designed for use on your mobile device. It was founded by Jefferey Katzenberg, of Disney productions fame, and features short, high-quality television shows news reports, sports features, and movies. Right now, the content on Quibi seems to be 100% original. In fact. A lot of the shows on Quibi are produced by and starring the celebrity backers that you see in the commercials. Shows star the likes of Chance the Rapper, Lebron James, Liam Hemsworth, and Chrissy Teigen. What the Heck Is a Quibi? Quibi features short-form content or normal length content split into short-form episodes. You can usually watch an episode in five to ten minutes and with episodes releasing daily it doesn’t take too long to get to the end of a series. I found myself interested in a show called Murder House Flip, a blend of true crime and home improvement. The first story, renovating a house where a gruesome murder took place thirty years ago, took three episodes to complete. Total running time was similar to that of a half-hour show on TV if you account for ad breaks. image: Quibi Watching Murder House Flip is where it clicked for me. Quibi isn’t all that different than television except for being formatted for your mobile device. It is a new concept for high definition, highly produced shows, and movies to flip to verticle mode when you tilt your phone but that’s about where the innovation stops in my opinion. Television has always been featured in short bits, split up by advertising. The difference here is that the content is a bit shorter overall, including the advertising content. I think Quibi is more of a tv channel than a world-changing app. What Parents Should Know There is currently no content on Quibi for children. The shows on Quibi, like most streaming services, are rated 14+ up to Mature. You will hear adult language and see some adult themes as well. Most content wouldn’t even be very entertaining for most younger viewers. I would rate the app 16+. As I mentioned above, the idea that Quibi is innovative is only partly accurate. Younger digital natives will see this concept as new. One show being split into several parts separated by ads is pretty new to young ones who are used to clicking play and binging, ad-free, and interruption-free with whole seasons of shows being released all at once. Those of us who lived through Saturday morning cartoons and TGIF every week aren’t so impressed. I will remind you that the content on Quibi is considered rated teen or higher. Many of the shows feature adult language, extreme violence, and some sexual content. While you may enjoy Quibi, since the shows are new and feature some celebrities that we all love, I wouldn’t recommend it for your kids. The post What the heck is a Quibi? appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
19 minutes | Mar 27, 2020
Using Tech to Your Advantage, Not Your Detriment | RCK Podcast
This is a special crosspost from my other podcast, Raising Connected Kids. Click the banner below to check it out. WELCOME to Raising Connecting Kids the podcast that answers your questions about the connected world your kids are growing up in. I get multiple questions a week. Sometimes through email or FB messages and sometimes face to face at an event or meeting. In this podcast, I’ll be answering the most common questions I’ve had and even, your questions. Email me at BecauseFamily@gmail.org to get your question read and answered on the Podcast. Question 5: What are some good things about our technology? Since we’re distancing ourselves, perhaps we should focus on some of the good things our kids can use technology for. Here are some ideas and safety tips for using Tech to your advantage, not your detriment. Use Education Sites/Apps: Many are free right now. Use them wisely, watch the amount of time spent and what they do with that time. Messaging/Video Chat Monitor messages. Use the right video chat apps Family-friendly gaming. Movies/shows Use your screen to get off-screen activity ideas. Resource Links: Bark.us – Message Monitoring kinzoo.com – Messaging app for families. Off-Screen Ideas CONCLUSION Thank you again for listening to Raising Connected Kids, the podcast that answers your questions about the connected world your kids are growing up in. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube, Spotify (soon), Google Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Like/Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Share the show with your friends and leave a review on your favorite podcast app to help spread the word. Remember to visit BecauseFamily.org/partnership to partner with us as we protect children and teenagers by bridging the technology gap between them and their parents. The post Using Tech to Your Advantage, Not Your Detriment | RCK Podcast appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
6 minutes | Mar 18, 2020
Kids, Social Media, and COVID-19
Instagram bans Coronavirus filters. There is a lot going on these days. We have to have some clarity for our kids when it comes to Social Media and COVID-19. As with any modern trend, Coronavirus has gone viral. Not just in the obvious sense. Filters on Instagram, which can be created and posted by nearly anyone, have been featuring images of the Coronavirus strain or filters that turn your face green and put the word Coronavirus above your forehead. Instagram has stated that they are afraid these filters are insensitive and possibly promote false facts about the virus. Because of this, the social media service is blocking all filter search results that use COVID-19 or Coronavirus. Facebook, Google, and Instagram bringing CDC and WHO information to top of feed and search results. “To help people get relevant and up-to-date resources, we will start showing more information from WHO and local health ministries at the top of Instagram’s Feed in some countries.” Social media feeds have been used by companies to highlight certain relevant news stories like election days and disaster response information over the past few years. COVID-19 information is now being offered through these in-feed posts on your social media thread. The major difference is that these posts are being highlighted and placed at the top of your feed. The idea is that the best way to fight misinformation on social media is by providing instant access to correct information. Google’s home page features an animated “DO THE FIVE” link that leads you to the five steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 along with search results relevant to learning more about the virus. These tips are intended to stop the spread of false ideas about the virus that put people in danger. It is critical that we work together to explain the truth about COVID-19 and only get our information for trusted sources. I write this blog for parents and guardians to help them protect kids but many people simply need to know how to protect themselves from false information. Be wise during this unique time in our history. Kids, Social Media, and COVID-19 Facts Articles and Memes There is a lot of nonsense going around concerning COVID-19 and much of it is in the form of memes. Images touting super cures or false prevention measures. Some are claiming government conspiracy and ways that they are lying to us. It can be difficult to weed out who is sharing facts and who is just making stuff up. The key is in the source. We have to check the sources of our information. Some guy in Texas isn’t going to have the super cure for COVID-19, some older lady in Wyoming doesn’t have an inside scoop on what the government is doing to distract us during this election cycle. If there is no source mentioned at all, ignore the content. Memes play on our sense of humor or lack of trust. It is easy to believe someone telling us the government made a virus to distract us from something else when we kind of believe that sort of thing already. When our expectations are developed by the movies and tv shows we’ve seen, articles and memes can point us down the wrong path simply by appealing to those expectations. Memes: A Parent’s Guide Articles can be just as dangerous in times like this. We must know the difference between a news report and an opinion piece. When it comes to things like viral outbreaks opinion writing is next to irrelevant. If the opinion is from someone with relevant credentials who has been commissioned to write something to help the general public during this time, that’s one thing. Some guy on Medium, however, writing about how we should ignore certain CDC advice shouldn’t be taken seriously. He’s writing his opinion and it being on the internet doesn’t make it useful, especially in such a volatile time. Once we learn to pay attention to the sources of our information we should be teaching our children to do the same. They need to know that there are people out there writing for entertainment or even with malicious motives in mind. Those people shouldn’t be used to form our opinions on anything, much less something as dangerous as a viral pandemic. Use wisdom, teach your children to do the same, and say a little prayer for those who have to be out and about protecting the rest of us. The post Kids, Social Media, and COVID-19 appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
4 minutes | Mar 5, 2020
Turn Your Drawings into Playable Games with Doodlematic
Doodlematic lets you take a picture you’ve drawn on paper and turn it into a playable mobile game. I met Martin Horstman, the dad who developed Doodlematic at CES2020. He talked me through how you can take any kind of art, as long as it uses the colors the APP recognizes, to create a real playable mobile game. They sent us their box set and we were able to play with it. My son had a blast drawing out games, especially platformer games that you had to jump from platform to platform an achieve goals. To use Doodlematic, you simply draw the game on paper, take a photo of it, the APP processes it, and then you play. You can then share it in the Doodlematic app and other people can jump in and play your games if you’ve allowed them to be public. How it Works There are two types of games you can create on doodle matic. You can make the platformer, like I mentioned already, or you can make an Angry Birds style launch game where you shoot your “avatar” over to knock over targets. It’s all based on a series of different colors that create different types of objects in the game. Anything black is your platform or your ground. Red is obstacles, things that get in your way and end the game when your avatar touches them. Blue items are your goals and anything green is your character or avatar. Your avatar jumps from platform to platform trying to grab the blue goals while avoiding all of the red obstacles. The app uses the colors to develop the Games behavior. This allows kids to basically make the game whatever they want it to be. The best part is there’s a lot of trial and error. I don’t know how many times my son drew something, took a photo of it, and then realized game just didn’t work properly. Not because the app was messed up but because his drawing didn’t allow the Doodlematic to do what it needed to do to make the game playable. Back to the drawing board, literally. Just a few fixes here and there and the games was doing what he wanted it to. What You Get Doodlematic comes in a box with notebooks to guide you through the game creation process. It takes you through a step by step tutorial showing you what to draw and how to use that to create the behavior you want in game. Doodlematic is probably usable for any kid over three years old. Once they can draw a little bit and grab a pen or pencil, they can create a game in the app. There are some advanced controls you can set up that make things move back and forth constantly or make the obstacles do things. You can learn how to do that as you gain more experience in Doodlematic. However, all you have to do to get started is draw with the proper colors and play your games. Apps like Doodlematic are great for kids because they teach them that trial and error process that’s necessary in developing any kind of technology. If you’re learning to code or if you’ve done any website building or graphic design you know that there’s a lot of times you start to create something that just cannot work. Then you have to go back to the drawing board. Doodleatic gives you a similar experience but it’s also still fun. It doesn’t take away any of the excitement because you know what you did wrong and can fix it.Then, suddenly, your game is working. That sense of reward and excitement is real and kids love it. I have four kids. All of them have loved Doodlematic. My boys loved it. My Girls Loved it. My twelve year old loved it and my five year old loved it too.? I recommend checking it out at the website below and getting your family into Doodlematic and make yourself some games. You’ll love it. ThinkDigital.com The post Turn Your Drawings into Playable Games with Doodlematic appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
4 minutes | Feb 3, 2020
Tech Toys Teach the Love of Reading
Using technology to teach the love of reading isn’t new. Amazon and Barnes and Noble did it with their Kindle and Nook. Now we’re seeing products come out to help children love reading as well. The show floor at CES2020 had several products designed to teach the love of reading. Here are a couple of those products I thought were super unique and cool. Bookinu Audiobooks are a great way to consume content while you’re busy doing other things. Reading out loud to your children has been touted as critical for their development. Some products give your kids the ability to hear books being read to them but Bookinu allows the narrator to be you. Bookinu is for children from three to seven years old. It encourages them to love reading through an easy to use app for parents. Moms and dads open the app and read any book they would like into the app. You put a sticker on the book and scan it with the Booking. The Bookinu will then playback your reading of the story through the Bookinu devices so that the child is hearing the book read to them in your voice. It is very easy to use and can be taken anywhere. It can store books internally so that you don’t need a wifi connection to play the content for your child. There is also a headphone jack and a speaker built-in. Dipongo “Dipongo is the first creative app for personalized stories mixing both real and virtual worlds.” – Dipongo Website Using voice recognition the app chooses the right story for kids based on their likes and dislikes. You then use tangible objects to influence the story through photos and augmented reality. Kids create, draw, build, and mold to get the story to continue. The story changes somewhat based on what you choose to insert into the narrative. If you build a bridge to get over the valley they’ll cross it. If you take a photo of a plane, they’ll fly across. Stories on Dipongo are co-authored with childhood and creativity professionals. The award-winning app was designed to educate kids on problem-solving, socialization, and contributing to a story. Watching the example on the show floor at CES caused me to smile a silly grin that wouldn’t go away. The cute characters and unique challenges are sure to keep your kids entertained for a long time, all the while teaching them some very useful skills. Counterintuitive? It may seem silly to use technology to try and encourage your kids to love a not so tech-centric activity like reading. Why not harness something they already use to encourage such a helpful skill. If reading out loud to our kids is such a great thing then an app that lets us read to them whenever we would like can only be super helpful. If we don’t allow it to replace the times we sit with them in person it can be a great tool. Using behaviors from Alexa and GoogleAssistant to read to our kids is neat but the voice of their parent isn’t being heard. Bookinu gives loved ones the ability to re-insert themselves into the read-aloud activity that is so beneficial. Giving older kids a way to interact with stories through augmented reality and building with tangible items is a wonderful idea also. This allows them to get lost in storytelling in a way that they may have never before. Storytelling and creativity is critical and will always be skills that kids can harness to be successful in the future. Dipongo gives them a head start on those problem solving and storytelling skills. The goal is to find tech that entices our kids to learn and gives them tools that they’ll need to succeed. There is a lot of tech out there that distracts our children and can even become harmful. I was excited to find these two options that give parents the ability to harness their kids’ love of tech to encourage a love of learning. The love of learning will serve their children well for the rest of their lives. The post Tech Toys Teach the Love of Reading appeared first on Family Tech Blog.
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