By B.N. Frank
Activist Post has reported many times about mainstream articles, news reports, magazine segments, and research about screen addiction and other health issues associated with kids’ excessive use of technology. Medical professionals are concerned about this. Documentary films have been produced including Child, Disrupted and Screenagers. Former tech designers, inventors, and investors are even remorseful because they’ve knowingly played a role in this:
OMG! So when communities install and promote “Smart” Playgrounds as a way to get kids to go outside and play, it sounds more like a skit on Saturday Night Live than something that’s actually happening. But it really is happening, and according to a spokesperson from Biba “it just makes so much sense”:
“It just makes so much sense to put technology with play,” says BIBA spokesperson Kaleigh DeHart. “Kids are already doing that every day and this really takes it to the next level meshing it with the playground everyone knows from their childhood.”
Say what? The playground is supposed to be a place to take a break from everything – even technology, right? Unfortunately, she’s not alone in her reasoning:
By engaging with children via the digital rewards and achievements to which they have become accustomed, “smart” playgrounds are able to get children back to real fun, in the real world.
Every single word in this statement sounds insane, right? Regardless, as reported in Norfolk, VA, this is still being promoted as getting kids away from screens and playing outside even though it’s technology based and using augmented reality which isn’t the same as actual reality:
Slides, swings, monkey bars and an augmented reality.
A company is using technology to help lead kids away from screens and encourage outside play. The trick: mobile games on apps.
Canada-based developer Biba puts the phone in the parents’ hands and requires the parent to tell the children what to do for the game – run around to interact with different characters, race across monkey bars or crawl through a tunnel to find a treasure, for example.
Biba has several apps with different themes such as dinosaur digs, relay races, team games, and obstacle courses.
The company’s augmented reality markers are installed at two Norfolk playgrounds: Tidewater Park at Tidewater Elementary School and Meadowbrook Park between West Little Creek Road and Trouville Avenue. When scanned with the apps, the markers activate games and content.
Children must be active for at least 80 percent of the game, according to Biba.
The apps can also be used on playgrounds without the markers and are designed for children ages 3 to 9. They can be downloaded for free through both iTunes and Google Play.
So again – this is really happening, even though one company’s founders say they “started the project as almost a joke”:
Playground Energy develops interactive playgrounds that use children’s energy to motivate them to play, learn and be healthy. Investment in the company totals €350,000, of which €225,000 is from venture capital fund Eleven, backed by the European Investment Bank. Founders Hristo Alexiev and Ilian Milinov started the project almost as a joke.
While in a rocking chair in a cafe, Ilian wanted to charge the battery of his phone using the chair’s movement. Hristo saw potential in the idea and today it has become reality. Children can use their own kinetic energy to turn on fountains and lights and create sounds at Playground Energy playgrounds.
Over the years, it has been reported how tech inventors – including the late Steve Jobs – limit the amount of technology their own kids use at home and also send their kids to low-tech schools. So how funny is it that “Smart Playgrounds” seem like just another way to make a buck at the expense of kids’ health and wellbeing?
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