In-App Rewards – Sending the wrong message?

I won’t lie – my family spends a lot of time on the tablet. Since we’ve cut cable, which I blogged about here, the tablet has become our primary mechanism of screen time. It’s actually much nicer than the continuously loud blaring TV. Our house is actually quieter with the exception of my boys fighting over toys.

With our cable cut, my kids are constantly looking for new content and are playing a variety of apps – Angry Birds with Daddy, Injini with Mommy and some educational apps by themselves. More recently, what I’m noticing with educational apps is the on-going reward system. Basically, you do three or four activities and you earn points or receive a special sticker.

But is all this pomp and circumstance necessary? Perhaps a simple “happy face” or the sound of a musical instrument is enough. And how about the over-the-top verbal feedback such as “Great job” or “Awesome” every time a task is completed? Is this the correct positive re-enforcement that children need? Every day I get dressed and I’m not receiving a special sticker or praise from my hubby such as “It’s super fabulous that you got dressed today. Well done!” Why should my kids be any different?

Now, I’m not suggesting that apps, or parents for that matter, shouldn’t encourage or support their children with positive feedback; however the feedback within apps needs to be realistic and genuine. Plus, half the time, I don’t think my kids understand why they are earning points or what they are supposed to do with the stickers. There is a disconnect somewhere.

Which leads me to my final thought on reward based systems – I strongly believe that once a child receives a reward, it sets a precedent within the child’s mind. They completed a task and got something for it so why doesn’t that happen in real life?

As an adult you learn that sometimes life rewards you and sometimes it doesn’t. What I want my kids to experience is real life learning because lets be honest – life isn’t always a box of chocolates.

What is your opinion of app rewards? Let me know weeboot@gmail.com

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