By Robin Raskin
Over-indulgent parents and an ad-infested childhood can turn even the nicest kid into a big brat. The nag factor can kick in anytime, anywhere. Designer jeans, mobile phones, leveling up in a game, wish lists, peer pressure, and fads of the moments create consumption maniacs.
Can technology help cure a case of the “gimmes”? Apps are working to buck the trend, teaching kids to work for their incomes, save and invest, take up some chores, and even get their homework in order. Most of these techniques have been around as long as there have been parents and many of them have a Skinnerian approach to behavior modification at their core. Since kids love their tech, these apps will give parents a systematic approach to keeping track of and managing the “inner brat”.
Apps for Chores
Kids learn how the world works when they’ve got chores and responsibilities at home. From making the bed to practicing the piano, moms have been making work-wheel charts for centuries. The app-ified version of the chore wheel comes in two basic varieties: a traditional chore list or a more elaborate gamification approach.
My favorite of the moment is Chore Monster, available on the web and more recently as an iOS app. Subscriptions vary but it’s about $4.99 for 30 days. The app gets an “A” for attitude for it’s monster themed world. As you complete chores, you get points to spend at the Monster Carnival, a gaming area on the website. The more chores you get done, the more fun you have at the Monster Carnival.
Parents can sign up multiple kids, create a list of chores and their frequencies. Nice pastels and graphics of everything from brooms to beds make a pretty chore chart. Parents then assign points and a reward — anything from a vacation to a movie or just a hug, it’s your choice. Kids get to check off their lists (pending parent approval) and chores become a family game.
A more traditional chore chart is Chore Pad ($2.99 to $4.99 for the iOS, HD and web versions). It lacks the monsters and carnival theme, but you can create a nice graphic chore list for your child and assign stars that are redeemable for prizes you create.
iReward has a bit more of a behaviorist twist to it. It’s available on iTunes, Android, Nook, Kindle and Windows Phone for $4.99. Kids are reinforced for making good decisions and exhibiting good behavior like picking a healthy snack or washing your hands.
Beep and Boop
The creators suggest this app helps parents of children with who have a variety of developmental delays and disorders.
Beep and Boop, available on iTunes, uses two sounds to reinforce good behavior. Good behavior (making the bed, brushing teeth, etc.) earns a beep. Bad behavior (teasing your sister, interrupting, etc.) issues a boop. Beeps and Boops can be associated with rewards by the parents.
My hands-down favorite app for teaching kids about money is PlayMoolah. It’s sort of like SimCity meets financial literacy. As they’re building their own planet to keep their creatures comfy, kids learn a lot about finance through a set of adorable games.
Games based on real money management practices earn Moops, the game’s currency. They can design homes, learn the prices of real goods, build a hospital and dole out medicine, bandages and more. Spending Moops asks them to evaluate needs versus wants very carefully. Saving is learned through a goal machine with a Royal Bank that holds invested moops.
There’s even a charitable giving component to the game, where children are exposed to worthy causes. Though it’s not available as an app yet, this is one of the more exciting literacy adventures I’ve seen. It’s being used widely in Singapore where financial literacy is a natural part of the school curriculum.
A similar app — Tykoon — is another popular way to track chores and money and put it towards real items kids want. It’s available for iOS for free.
Bank of Mom
Another more traditional list to help kids track their income and expenses is the iOS-based Bank of Mom. Mom can help kids track chores, jobs, virtual accounts, deposits and withdrawals. They can agree on time for TV and videos games, as well as alternatives like sleepovers and trips. Combining money management with behavior modification yields results.
Nothing like a night’s homework to bring out your inner brat. Parents who find the homework hours particularly vexing might try iHomework from Element 84. No games, no ploys, but a great way to organize school tasks and calendars with realistic time schedules.
Do you use apps to encourage your kids to to chores and save money? Let us know of any we missed in the comments below.