Summer tech for tweens and teensPosted by MomOnMars on May 19, 2012
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I’m all about sending my kids outside to play, but sometimes you just have to have some indoor time. As the first generation of true netizens, my kids are well versed in screen time, and frankly, I’ve given up trying to fight it. Why?
My son honed his reading skills on Club Penguin missions. My daughter aced her TAKS writing tests after she started blogging on a regular basis. I’m a big believer that tech can play a role in the development of important life skills as long as it’s not all our children do all day long, and as long as what they are doing online has some redeeming value.
As summer approaches, here are three of my favorite tech adventures.
At South by Southwest this year, we had the opportunity to meet with the developers of NukoToys. The San Francisco-based company is launching its iPad game soon based on the popular book series Monsterology. Imagine taking a trading card game and making it completely interactive by tapping a card on your iPad and introducing the character on the card to your screen in 3D – like magic. In this game, you have all the fantasy of grown up games, but with a simpler strategy and missing the darkness that usually accompanies mythological gaming. Kids can collect, trade and play with the cards, which are priced at under $2 a pack. NukoToys also has a version for younger children with all the animal adventure of the wildlands from Animal Planet.
While Club Penguin is massively popular, there is an equally popular, but perhaps lesser known world where real online learning is happening: Whyville.net. Where Club Penguin is designed for the younger crowd, Whyville caters to a more mature 8 to 15 year old group. In a safe environment, kids learn about different types of power plants, lobby for cleaner air, practice money management (including having checking, savings, and CDs that earn interest – in clams – the Whyville currency), practice being a good community citizen, experience what it’s like to be in zero gravity, play Chinese checkers, navigate a car in a 3D world, program a robot, even track sharks around the world. And that’s just a small sampling of what’s on this free site.
One of the newest features is an innovative avatar-based effort in collaboration with the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology designed to help kids deal with emotional issues. It’s another way to reach our kids at a time when they are facing some of the most difficult social environments of their lives.
So let’s just say your kid loves to play computer-based games, but is ready to take the next step and begin designing them. But he doesn’t know Java or Objective C, and even MIT’s Scratch is a little challenging. Not a problem. Gamestar Mechanic fills the gap. What I love about this site is that kids can easily design a game, post it for others to play, gather their feedback, make it even better, enter it into competitions and win prizes for their creations.
Playing is free, although you can upgrade to a paid premium version. Trust me – your kids will be hooked. And when they go to play games, they’ll constantly be thinking about the systems that went into the design mechanics of the game. And you never know – you may have the next great game developer living under your roof.