Affirming the Future, App for Kids

Vanessa Fuller

Mobile Media

Field Research

March 17, 2014


Children and Mobile Media


                Having both theoretical and practical knowledge of media consumption and production, I often am more analytical of its effects and potentials. I see how new technology sweeps the nation for both children and adults, especially in terms of cellular technology.  I’ve seen changes in who owns cellular devices primarily that the age of individuals owning these devices is lower than it was when I was growing up. So on this past Saturday at work, I observed students from ages 10-13, and how they interacted with mobile media.


                A few fundamental acknowledgements include the types of phones these children possessed, the types of apps they knew of and used, and how these gadgets effected their behavior and perception of others.  I work with Interfaith Social Change Movement as a mentor and a tutor for 6th graders. I am assigned one child in particular to mentor, but at any given time from 12pm-2pm I can observe the children. As a general rule, students as well as student-teachers are not allowed to engage in their mobile devices. This is to ensure that the children and the teachers/mentors bond and do not neglect one another. Occasionally of course a mentor can be spotted using their phones, or a child, usually when left alone, will engage in theirs well.


                I did quantify the number of iPhone or androids in the possession of children. I did not specify their ages, but I know they’re between the aforementioned ages. With a new influx of students I do not know presently how many of them there are in total, but I noted 27 to be smartphone holders. I came to work early that day to sit in on a classroom session; otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see so many kids in one setting or sneaking to look at their phones. I would guess by way of cultural climate, that the majority of them had smartphones. I’ve watched children take out their phones to share information or things they thought were cool to their mentors, or to find and play music. They also took them out to take pictures because that increasingly popular among cellphone holders.


                Basically, these kids used phones like people twice their age group in terms of their features and popular apps. The most childlike behavior they displayed was their slight teasing, or mild bewilderment, or the comic relief they found when the topic of not-so-smartphones arose. I could hear snippets of conversation about which apps their friends should use, or giggles about whose phone was outdated, or “Played,” as the phrase particularly came up. Really the features of these technologies were common in their conversation; it almost started to bore me. Deciding to broaden my observation I remembered why we were all there. Almost every Saturday for about 9 months, we assemble to encourage, uplift, and befriend one another, children and mentors alike.


                As a mentor my job is to observe behavioral patterns and abnormalities amongst the children. I listen to them; I laugh with them, teach them, and of course correct them. Mostly, I learn about them! I watch them avoid social situations, initiate them, and observe them. I watch them tease and correct each other. I see them. I’ve worked with children from babysitting to other gigs similar to this one, and I see how fragile they are. So in terms of inner-city kids and mobile technologies, I think instead of an entertainment app, they could use one that meets them where their social injustices lie.


                I would love to develop an app of affirmations for those children, where they can access and utilize in their day-to-day lives. Initially I thought about developing an app for young women of color that allows them to access or an introduction at least, to positive historical women of their race(s) or other relative area of life. The app would have been interactive in that they can touch and discover information about these women, and input their similarities/differences in a celebratory manor, and have a place where they can flourish in the area of self-esteem. In a culture where negative archetypes of women of color are so prevalent, many of our daughters are falling into the mold and losing themselves. It’s tragic.


                After observing the children I broadened my thoughts of the app. I’m thinking that this demographic may benefit from having a social media aspect to this affirmation-based app, and it would spread the positivity within their networks. Picture and fact sharing is popular among my age group, an age group that the demographic mimics so heavily. I think with a few prompts of kindness and positive thought provocation, that students and children in general, would benefit greatly from this sort of application. 


One thought on “Affirming the Future, App for Kids”

  1. Reading both of your field research reports, there are two organizing themes: confidence building and teaching. Both lend themselves to a variety of potential app designs. I think that pulling back a bit you might be able to imagine an app that could help both younger and older audiences or even a basic framework for apps that can promote teaching that is designed to promote confidence.

    One idea that seems compelling given the two reports together, is imagining an app that is specifically designed to help children teach elders to use these technologies. As many have noted and research supports younger children pick up new skills quickly. Although young children are certainly not the most patient beings in the world, the app might be directed towards teaching patience when explaining skills (a highly valuable life skill at any age). Indeed it might not require imagining specific age levels as “teacher” or “student.” An app designed to teach good pedagogy to the “teacher” and self-directed learning to the “student” could transcend lesson content.

    Another idea, tied to the theme of confidence, is an app that doesn’t just post affirmations but actively allows people to display their competence. There is certainly a great deal of value to positive thinking, but you might also envision an app that reminds people of the things they clearly are capable of doing and have done. At all ages and across identities it is easy to feel inadequate. Focusing on what you like about yourself and what you are capable of is a challenge that social work and psychotherapy practices work hard to teach people (and are literatures you might tap into).

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