We are always on the lookout for interesting and useful apps for kids, and one recently caught our eye, raised our eyebrows and then made us laugh. A Japanese company developed an app that scans newspaper articles and has the news appear in more kid-friendly text and graphics right on the smartphone screen. Their premise is that “newspapers were not made for children,” and so rewriting the content to make it appealing to kids will encourage them to read the paper. Of course, some people have already stopped reading the news on paper and get all of their news online, but if you do still read the paper, do you read it with your kids? Do they read the news? Sports? Just the comics? Would you hand your child a smartphone and a newspaper and expect them to use the phone to read the paper? Unfortunately the promotional video is in Japanese and so we are not able to read how the app translates the news from adult-only to kid-friendly – what is the difference between making news accessible to kids and dumbing it down?
Then we started to think – what if you used this app to scan key phrases and themes from classic works. We created a little word game we call “Great Works of Literature as Seen Through the Eyes of Hello Kitty.” It goes like this:
- Moby Dick: “Hi, my name’s Ishmael! What’s yours?”
- Hamlet: “I wonder if I should just kill myself.” (with a pop up graphic: If you have feelings like this call the Samariteens at 1.800.252.8336)
- Anna Karenina: “I’m sorry! Is your family unhappy? Mine is, too, but in a different way.”
- Richard III: “It is winter outside but I am happy inside! How are you?”
- Pride & Prejudice: “Rich men need wives.”
- The Gettysburg Address: “Eight-seven years ago some men started their own country.”
Sometimes complex language is a good thing. We had a good time thinking of these – can you make up some more Kitty-fied phrases from your favorite books? Send them to us!
But seriously, is there really a way to make dramatic news events kid friendly (“There are Bullies in Syria”), and is that the right thing to do? Are we really going to trust an app to explain war, murder and poverty to our children? What kind of software could take an article about a school shooting and make it an easy read for an 8-year-old? Newspapers are in many ways geared toward adults, but they once offered parents a way to introduce their children to the adult world at a measured pace. The digital revolution now permits us to be exposed to more information at a younger age than ever before, and parents have to work actively to stem the tide of news flowing toward their children in a way that allows them to process it and prioritize it in a developmentally appropriate way. It’s a new frontier – do you think apps like this should lead the way? Tell us what you think.