The most popular gaming apps on iOS and Android can be used by kids to play with friends online, but the app creators aren’t always clear about how to best teach kids the ropes.
We caught up with the head of the industry’s biggest digital gaming app developer to find out what advice we can give to parents who want to get their kids to be more online-savvy.
“A game has to have a very specific purpose.
So, you can have an online game, but you have to have something that actually involves people, that’s meaningful, that people can interact with,” said Matt Schoettle, CEO of game developer Playdom.
“You don’t want a game that’s just for kids, but then you’re not even creating the kind of gaming experience that the kids are going to want to play.”
The game makers of iOS and android games, meanwhile, tend to stick to one simple rule: You should make it fun.
“We don’t believe kids should be playing games with friends unless there’s a purpose,” said Playdom’s Schoettel.
“But if a kid is playing a game and he’s having fun, then that’s cool.”
There’s an emerging movement in the games industry to make mobile games more interactive, allowing kids to experience and learn in real-time.
That means that you can put your kid in control of your avatar, the character you play in a game, and use it to make your own choices, or even to interact with other players.
But even with this approach, the apps can still be a bit too simplistic, if not too hard, for some parents.
Playdom, for example, requires that you set a minimum age of 14 for the app.
“I have a 14-year-old daughter and a 17-year and a 18-year old son.
I think there’s something really wrong with this app that I would rather see them play than a game where they have to interact in real time with people,” Schoeter said.
“Kids don’t have the maturity level to play online games with their friends.”
As Schoette explained, a lot of parents don’t realize that their kids are already playing games that are too easy for them.
“It’s easy to be able to be in control and not worry about the other kid getting in your way, but kids don’t do that,” he said.
The apps are often so simple that even parents who have a background in technology can struggle to keep up.
“You have a lot more things to do in terms of the gameplay and the interface that kids aren’t comfortable with,” Schooett said.
If the game is too simple for your kids, you might want to look at ways to help them learn how to interact and make their own games.
Schoett said he would like to see games with more social elements, so that players can interact directly with one another.
“There’s a lot that can be done with social interactions,” he told us.
“So, a social experience, if you can add social elements into it, that could be really beneficial to kids.”
Schoettle also pointed out that a lot is learned from a game like The Simpsons that teaches kids about the social aspects of playing.
“A lot of kids are very good at making friends,” he explained.
“They understand how to build that relationship.
They understand that if they want to build a relationship, they have a place to do it.”
Apps for parents that use social elements can be even more effective.
Playdom also offers parents an option to customize their games, including using voice chat or a real-life conversation with other kids.
And because of their ability to be downloaded and installed by their child, apps that have social elements and interactive content can be downloaded for free, without the need to purchase them.
“It’s really a matter of providing a different experience for your child and having that kind of experience, and if your kid doesn’t like it, then you can just turn it off,” Schowett said of these apps.
“That’s really the beauty of apps, is that they’re very user-friendly.”
Schooett pointed out one important aspect of apps that doesn’t get talked about enough: their social features.
“Games can have a certain level of interaction,” he stressed.
“And a lot games have these features, so a lot are more interactive and engaging.”
But there are still a few things that parents need to know about these games that might be of benefit to their kids.
The best way to teach your kids about social interaction is to get them involved.
“The thing is, we really don’t know the answer,” Schosett said about what apps can teach kids.
“This is one of the big challenges we’re facing in education.”
“A lot has changed in the last 10 to 15 years.
We don’t really know what the right answer is.