App Treasure Hunter

The Big App Controversy... Do they help or harm your child?

I was at a coffee house the other day and happened to see two different moms doing homework with their young-ish kids. Both tables had a mom, a kid, a workbook and an iPad. (yes, I live in Silicon Valley... what can I say)...

One scenario was a disaster. More like a vortex of anger and frustration. The other was a pleasure to watch. With a beautiful laboratory setting like this just laid out in front of me, the temptation was too great so I donned my imaginary lab coat and picked up my own electronic data storage device and started taking notes.

Let's take up the disaster scenario first. Little Johnny was struggling with some spelling homework which was a bit above his head. Like all children who have not been beaten into submission yet, he was fighting back by complaining that he hates spelling, it's stupid and everyone has spell checker anyway so he doesn't need it, as a matter of fact, nobody needs to know how to spell anymore. Arguments as old as the human race: I can imagine a Stone Age child saying exactly the same things about making arrows or building a fire: he hates it, and besides he's destined to marry a female who will do all that for him anyway so he won't even need that skill anyway.

There sat the iPad on the table beckoning to little Johnny to play games or watch a cartoon - anything to get away from the dreaded work. And believe me, he was definitely trying to grab it away from his mother who held it firmly in her grip.

Now let's look at the other scene unfolding at the next table. Mom, kid, homework, iPad. Mom drinking her latte and texting a friend. Little Judy pondering over some math problems - not easy for her - and switching from her workbook to the math app that was opened up and running on her own tablet. The app was able to fill in the gaps that the teacher, the textbook and the traditional instructional methods had left in the little girl's understanding of the subject. And the app seemed to be doing a good job of it because the child was absorbed in the materials and, though her homework execution was slow, it was being done independently and without too much frustration.

The moral of the story: like any tool, apps can be used constructively or destructively. Your best bet is to take a moment or two to find the best ones and then structure your child's homework time in such a way as to utilize the vast knowledge and instructional capabilities of the internet to boost his or her understanding of any and all subjects. By doing so, you will be giving your kids the immense advantage of knowing that they can learn anything if they just look in the right place.

Not bad for 99 cents.

Lyn Demaree

By the way, I love hearing from you and getting your feedback.

I am looking at possibly starting a forum for advice for parents but goodness gracious, I cannot come up with a name. I will style it after the "Dear Abbey" column that was so popular in the 60's and 70's. If you have a catchy title or name, pass it over to me, I could use the help.

Thank you. And I sincerely hope that my writings are of use to you and your family.