Managing children’s screen time has been a perennial concern for parents — even back when there was only one screen in the home to monitor.
PBS Kids has applied a contemporary solution to this familiar parenting challenge: An app that allows parents to monitor which videos their children watch on PBSKids.org, what games they’re playing on the site and what they’ve learned along the way.
The new PBS Kids Super Vision app even lets parents set a timer that effectively puts the PBSKids.org site to sleep when it’s bedtime, dinner time or simply time for the child to move away from the computer screen.
“The kids know that there are rules, and when the show is over that’s enough — but I like having that reinforcement,” said Abby Jenkins, a mother of two boys, ages 2 and 5, who has had access to a pre-release version of the app as a PBS employee.
PBS Kids Digital Vice President Sara DeWitt said the app was developed in response to a series of focus group meetings with parents, who said they think of PBS as educational but don’t know enough about the programs or the educational skills these shows seek to develop.
Parents also expressed conflicted emotions about the amount of time their children spend in front of the computer.
“They want their kids to play on the computer. They feel that’s important, they like PBS.org, but they feel a little guilty,” said Dewitt. “As screens get smaller and more mobile, they have less insight into what [their children] are doing.”
The app, available today for Apple’s iPhone and iPad, synchronizes with the home browser when the parent enters a unique pairing code found on the PBSKids.org website.
Whenever a child watches a video — say, an episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” — the app displays the title of the show and the video’s length, offers a brief synopsis and suggests a related activity the parent could engage in later with the child. The app also provides a summary of activity on the site, indicating how much time was devoted to literacy, math skills or the arts. And it includes an activity timer.
Jenkins said she could envision using the information to correlate one “Wild Kratts” episode that focused on the woodpecker to an appearance of one of these birds in the family’s Virginia backyard.
“That’s the kind of thing that the app does for you. It gives the parent a little bit more information about what the child saw and what they were learning from the show,” Jenkins said.