Growing up with Apps, an Addiction

In this photo, Martin immerses between the technological world and his past, at three years of age. The pixel explosion effect portrays his past and digital present.

It is just another regular day after school and my 8-year-old brother, Martin has started his quest of collecting coins and rewards, just in the nick of time before getting caught by our Mother, Leticia. Despite this, discipline is an everyday routine, and she occasionally reminds Martin to complete his chores and homework, before playing video games (1). In fact, Martin is not the only child that has had these difficulties. Families and friends have spoken about these issues. My family, of course, has become conscious of the effects of gaming.

Here is a photo of Martin at age 2.

To begin with, early in Martin’s childhood at the age of 2, he was introduced to his first iPad. As the fourteen-year-old babysitter, it was my intentions to introduce puzzle and strategy types of games for his development. Although there were not many education applications at the time, they began to grow throughout the years.

At three years of old, Martin fascinated our family. He spoke and read Spanish; he vacuumed vocabulary and with the precision he provided excellent reasoning to his comments and intuition into different opinions.

At this age, he was introduced to the computer, where he played Minecraft and picked up his second language, English all within a year.

Family and friends asked my Mother all the time, what was her secret? That, when compared to other children around his age, his intelligence was remarkable. Without hesitations, it was explained. It was not long before our families began to purchase tablets for their children. It seemed that each Christmas party, more children played on mobile devices.

During the last ten years, the interface of technology has become a significant innovation, for all ages. Martin experienced the new wave of technology at the right timing. At this time, applications (Apps) became increasingly sophisticated. This experience has allowed Martin to explore different educational games.

My intermediate family, as a result, embraced the technological revolutionary wave. With the pricing of mobile devices decreasing and the market of educational applications increasing, purchasing mobile devices was an effortless advantage.

At the next intermediate family gathering, mixed opinions about children on mobile devices began to emerge. My uncle, Moises Rodriguez mentioned, in one of our intermediate family dinners that his 4-year-old and 8-year-old daughters are known to stay up all night, if not watched carefully (2). In a different perspective, my 14-year-old cousin Tyler voiced his opinion, which apps are not just fun, but they are addicting (3). The frustration of playing too many games was a new problem, even at home with Martin. It seemed that his daily routines changed. Instead of following Mom’s rules, doing homework first — Mom had to reinforce these rules occasionally.

At that instant, applications intents become more transparent of how they truly function. The learning based games, they aided in a child’s education. The other games that were for entertainment, they affected kids in different forms. Just to put it, these two types of apps either increase the opportunity of learning or pose health problems in children.

Some apps have risks for causing health related problems. After all, Application coders’ intents are to make their games as addicting as the gambling games found in casinos, according to In Dr. Young from the Psychiatric Times (4). In an article for kids in KidsHealth Organization, Mary L. Gavin, MD describes that extreme gaming has the potential of health problems that include less exercise and linking violent based games to behavioral problems (5). The games that are chosen for children to play may indirectly affect children.

The other Apps as mentioned, they have the potential to increase the opportunity of learning for all children. In Using Math Apps for Improving Student Learning, a small pilot study demonstrates improvement of teaching mathematics (6). In Australia, different education researchers and application developers that have worked together to create an App that accelerates reading within one week, according to Australian Broadcasting Commission. (7). These examples are just a few, and they demonstrate the potential use of learning-based apps in general. That with the work of educational researchers and developers, these Apps differ from those that are entertainment based.

In 2nd grade, Martin explained how he played a piano using bananas at school. He mentioned a toy named ‘Makey Makey’. The Makey Makey is a controller board, costing roughly $54. It is for children and adults. After doing research, I purchased this for his birthday.

What is certain — has been the recognition and distinction of these different types of applications within our family. With Martin growing, his use of his iPad becomes less concerning. We also have simple discourse and education for what games to look for. This in return provides Martin with an environment to learn and eventually, fully understand the intents of these games.

Computer programming is a significant learning opportunity for various disciplines, including math and writing. This experience is learned through fiddling and playing code. Apple has recently provided a simple computer coding language called: Swift. This new programming language is simple enough for children to learn. (Photo License at http://negativespace.co/license/)

When Martin began schooling this year, we were given a new opportunity of reducing his time on computers at home. However, once more we decided to allow the use of these devices. Of course, by becoming conscious of how these technologies affect his development. Are we worried? With educational development, yes. With physical or mental health, no. In the Utah’s education legislation, less public funding is driven to adapt a tech program, according to Morgan Jacobsen and that would increase the technology use within the classroom (8). It seems that technology in the classroom has improved for qualifying schools, but not for all schools. This leaves us with little sense to remove these devices, for now. These devices provide an environment that Martin uses to learn and new responsibilities — with the help of us, his family.

This school year, Martin was introduced to a new coding app. It was created by Apple, called Swift Playgrounds. After a few days, he was learning a new computing language. He now knows what variables and functions are. With his high grades, I find myself having fewer reasons to gift him with a new desktop computer for this Christmas.


Bibliographies

  1. Vega, Leticia. Vega, Leticia. Personal Interview: Thoughts on Discipline for Video Games. [interv.] Carlos Vega. [trans.] Carlos Vega. October 25, 2016.
  2. Rodriguez, Moises. Personal Interview: Family Gathering with Leticia Vega, Norma Patino and Chela Rodriguez. [interv.] Carlos Vega. December 2, 2013.
  3. Smith, Tyler. Personal Interview: Thoughts on What Makes Apps Fun. [interv.] Carlos Vega. July 4, 2015.
  4. Young, PsyD By Kimberly. Video Games: Recreation or Addiction? Psychiatric Times. [Online] UBM Medica, LLC, a UBM company , April 2015, 2015. [Cited: November 1, 2016.] http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/special-reports/video-games-recreation-or-addiction.
  5. Gavin, Mary L. KidsHealth. Are Video Games Bad for Me? [Online] June 24. http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/video-gaming.html.
  6. Using Math Apps for Improving Student Learning: An Exploratory Study in an Inclusive Fourth Grade Classroom. Zhang, Meilan, et al. 2, s.l. : Springer International Publishing, March 2015, TechTrends, Vol. 59, pp. 32–9. ISSN-8756–3894.
  7. Hamilton-Smith, Lexy. New app boosts children’s learning in a week, researcher says . Australian Broadcasting Corporation. [Online] May 30, 2016. [Cited: November 1, 2016.] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-31/education-app-improves-literacy-prep-students-qld/7462160.
  8. Jacobsen, Morgan. Technology program ‘a huge deal’ for low-income Salt Lake students. KSL. [Online] April 20, 2016. [Cited: November 2016, 2016.] https://www.ksl.com/?sid=39522243&nid=148.