If there's a new phone or gadget on your wishlist this year, you might not be the only one getting a new toy. In a survey of parents of 2- to 10-year-olds, PBS KIDS found that nearly 25 percent of parents will pass their used mobile phones and computers to their kids when they get new ones for themselves. Computers (54 percent) and mobile devices (38 percent) will be the most passed down. Sharing technology can provide great learning opportunities for children through mobile apps and online games and there are simple steps parents can take to make their hand-me-down phones and computers kid-ready.
PBS has put together these tips for parents who plan to share the gift of technology with their kids this holiday season, to help them prepare devices for their kids:
1. Sweep it: All devices should be cleaned of any content including personal files, credit card information, etc. before handing down to kids. Parents should swipe all their browser "cookies" and perform an application sweep.
2. Secure it: There are parental controls on most tech devices that can turn certain features on and off. Settings on the iPhone, for example, that can be restricted include explicit song titles, Internet browser, YouTube, iTunes and the camera.
3. Set limits: As with any new toy, parents should set expectations and limitations with their kids when the device is handed down, and should encourage other forms of learning and play beyond the screen.
4. Find the right apps for your child: A good app is the perfect combination of education and entertainment, and should be appropriate for your child's age and stage of development.
5. Avoid apps that try to sell: Apps labeled "lite" or "free" often attempt to make money by trying to sell virtual items while a child is playing a game, or link to another related app that requires payment to download. Select apps from trusted, reliable sources, and make sure that they are not trying to market to your child.
More helpful tips are available online at PBSParents.org.
Get ready to live in Ruff Ruffman's world -- or, technically speaking, Ruff's augmented reality. PBS KIDS launched FETCH! Lunch Rush, our first augmented reality app for iPhone and iPod touch. Available for free, the app uses the camera on iPhone or iPod touch to overlay computer-generated graphics on top of the physical, real-world environment. And Ruff himself lends his special "personality overlay," as always.
In the app, aimed at kids 6-8 and focusing on math skills, Ruff Ruffman, canine host of FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman, is making a movie! Of course, he's in over his head and he needs help, like, yesterday. In this multi-player game, keep up with lunch orders from Ruff's movie crew. The challenge is keeping track of how many pieces of sushi everyone wants. You'll need to think fast and be quick on your feet to keep the sushi straight. Both your brain and your body will be moving once you spread out the game pieces (augmented reality markers) and start taking orders. See if you can make it all the way to Top Dog, or better yet, get there before your friends do!
Do your kids love (love, LOVE) games? Thought so. Now how about having them build their own? Welcome to the STEM Video Game Challenge.
Inspired by the "Educate to Innovate Campaign," President Obama's initiative to promote a renewed focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge is an annual competition to motivate interest in STEM learning by tapping into students' natural passion for playing and making video games. New research is showing how making games helps develop critical STEM skills, including problem solving and digital media literacies.
Learn how to participate in the PBS KIDS stream of the challenge, and check out interviews from creators of some of our more most innovative and popular interactive producers. Go behind the scenes with the creators of Escape from Greasy World, Prankster Planet and Curious George’s Busy Day talk about all aspects of the game creation process, from brainstorm to design to testing.
With inspiration from the experts, you’ll be ready to learn how to compete for prizes like laptops and cash for your school. Plus, see if your local PBS station is holding a community event for the Challenge:
KLRU – Austin, TX
Twin Cities Public Television
UNC-TV – Research Triangle Park, NC
WBGU – Bowling Green, OH
WCNY – Syracuse, NY
WHRO – Norfolk, VA
WKAR – Lansing, MI
WQED – Pittsburgh, PA
WUSF – Tampa, FL
WVPT – Harrisonburg, VA
WXEL – Palm Beach County, FL
WXXI – Rochester, NY