I’ve been working at WGBH with PBS for about sixteen years, and pretty much everything we produce for kids has some kind of additional support, activities or background information for caregivers. This puts our games in the context of the “whole child” and gives us a chance to explain how to extend the ideas or curriculum of a digital game into the offline world, or “the world” as it used to be known.
Over time those supports have moved from being print to digital, and from digital to mobile digital, but the challenge has always been that a kid playing a game or watching a video and a parent’s potential interest in that game are not always co-located. In other words, a kid may be online at home but a parent may be at work, perhaps wondering what their kid is doing online. While for a few of you that wondering may extend only to wondering if Little Jimmy is ordering the boxed set of Game of Thrones from Amazon, we know many parents want to use the free resources PBS KIDS offers and to engage with familiar PBS KIDS characters that their children love.
Today, PBS moves another step forward in that direction with a sophisticated new (and free) app which gives a parent Super Vision.
Each child playing at PBS KIDS now has an optional session ID number which the parents can save in this new iPhone app. The app then offers them real time data about what the kids is playing or watching at PBSKids.org and offers parents the related activities that they or producers like WGBH have provided as extensions of each game. Play a Plum Landing game and then discover a rich array of outdoor science activities. Watch a Super Why video and find its matching literacy activity.
There’s also an option letting Mom or Dad remotely set a Play Timer from their mobile device that will put the site to sleep on their child’s screen, easing the transition from playing online to another activity, such as dinner time or bed time.
I asked Sara DeWitt about the app. She’s Vice President for PBS KIDS Digital.
GeekDad: How did you decide what behavior to track in this app?
DeWitt: PBS KIDS does a great deal of research, and we have heard from parents in testing that they wanted to dig deeper and learn more about what their kids are learning from our content, and how they can extend that learning beyond the screen. We also learned from research that parents want more information and related tips and tools delivered directly to them and that they are looking for ways to manage their kids screen time. We developed PBS KIDS Super Vision to meet these needs, with features including real-time information on the games and videos their kids are playing on pbskids.org, related activities and ideas, and a Play Timer to help transition from screen time to another activity.
GeekDad: Are there other plans to expand what it can do? For example, will parents and kids be able to communicate with each other in future iterations?
DeWitt: We have many ideas of new features we could potentially add, and are planning to update the app regularly. However we aren’t making any final decisions on what features we will add in the future until parents have a chance to download the app and offer us their ideas. We want to build this app to meet the needs of parents and help them support their kids’ learning, so we want their input to help drive the app’s evolution. Since parent feedback drove so many of the decisions about this app, we’re excited to see what parents think we should add next. Parents can send their feedback directly to us via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via social media using the hashtag #SuperVisionPBSKIDS.
GeekDad: Will there be an Android version?
DeWitt: We are planning to release PBS KIDS Super Vision on Android in the near future.