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★★★ Open House ★★★
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CTR Weekly 1/16/2019
Parents -- "Lean Into" Technology Use with Kids; Plus Disney Coloring World, Sir Dapp! Game Show and Maybot
"One of the things I suggest is that kids should be starting on social media much younger. And, play more video games with your kids, too." Jordan Shapiro, in his new book "The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World."

Writer and thinker at large Jordan Shapiro is the father of two young sons. His advice is to "lean into" your worries about the overuse of technology. It seems that parents now worry about this more than they worry about stuff like drugs, sex and bullying. In this NPR interview, Shapiro explains that you need to address the problem by playing along with your kids, watch what they're doing, and fight the fire with fire. Seems obvious; but perhaps not to a busy parent. Link to the NPR interview

Rather than calling an app "free" we think Apple and Google should start flagging "MCOBC" apps, which stands for "must cancel or be charged." That's what the new Disney Coloring World by Touch Press is. In order to earn our new ethical seal, it would need to have this type of label at the point of purchase, and it would also need to be as easy to end the subscription as it is to start it. The parental gate (enter a date) is also not strong enough to prevent accidental subscriptions.

I'm just back from CES in Las Vegas where was able to see new products that you need to know about, including the new Mabot robotics kit from China. See the review, below or watch the video

Disney Coloring World
Touch Press, , ($free trial; $20/year, for ages 6-8.
This is a subscription-based coloring experience (about $20/year) that mixes a well designed set of creative tools with five dynamic sticker playgrounds, and a strong dose of Disney. Theme packs include Mickey Mouse, Beauty and the Beast, Wreck It Ralph, Cars and many princess characters. Compared to other coloring apps, this one is excellent, with a powerful set of coloring tools and the ability to undo steps and save work. You can freely scribble, paint or sketch over the black-line masters. A magic fill-in tool to reveals the original "correct" coloring. Once you finish, your character is turned into a sticker that can be placed in one of the sticker playgrounds, where a tap can launch a hidden effect, and you can zoom in or out. The Disney templates remove opportunity to make your own character. A blank page would be wonderful addition to this app. Because it's a subscription model, we suspect that there will be additional clusters of content in the future. The key question is how many Disney characters do you want to fill in and/or scribble over to merit a subscription? Once you color your character, it is turned into a sticker that is placed inside a very cool dollhouse-style world. The more you color, the more characters you can unlock. This app is free to download, but doesn't let you do anything unless it is unlocked with a temporary password which signs you up as a paid subscriber. To cancel, you have to go into your account settings. So you download a large (940 MB) app, but don't really get anything that is actually free. Rather, it should be labeled as a MCOBC "must cancel or be charged" experience.
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Shenzhen Bell Creative Science and Education Co., Ltd.,, ($850), for ages 8-up.
This snap together robotics kit that costs a lot -- but also does a lot. Mabot (My Robot) was shown at CES 2019, and is scheduled to be released in the USA as another entry into the crowded snap together and program robotics category.
The round parts are impressive -- inspired by the functions of a human body. There's a brain (with the controller and ability to communicate with a tablet via bluetooth), joints (round joint/motors for motion), eyes and ears (sensors for light and sound), and muscles (lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged with a standard USB-mini plug). Different connectors snap into the round parts to give the kit the ability to connect with standard-sized LEGO blocks. There are two apps for controlling or programming your projects. In the demonstration, the apps worked on iOS devices. No firm release date for the USA was provided. This kit is not cheap -- at $850, it is out of range for many. Keep your eye on this one.

Sir Dapp! Game Show
Crystal Tree Group,, ($3.99, for ages 5-7.
This ambitious app is a mixture of quality, homemade animations and music, designed to give children some ideas about manners. Sir Dapp, the narrator, and some animal characters are in a game show. The idea is to help the contestants win points by answering multiple-choice questions about manners.
Categories include “Sight What’s Polite”, “Historically Rude”, “Keeping it Clean”, and “Trivia Soup.” There are short musical animations that pop up between the questions. The app was created by Jeanne Marie Tidwell in Florida, USA. Some interface improvements would help this app. Picking a category of questions can be confusing because the categories resemble one another; and you don't know where you are in the question stream. You also can't adjust the music, which tends to loop. Created for Crystal Tree Group by Night & Day studios.
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