Many parents today have mixed feelings about the relationship between their kids and technology. On one hand, we know our children will need familiarity with all kinds of new tech when they enter the workforce, and boy, it sure is nice to get ten minutes to go to the bathroom alone while your kid plays on the iPad. On the other, with more and more screens available to kids, at what point are we sacrificing one-on-one interaction for more time in front of a machine? Does new tech provide new opportunities, or simply new distractions? We thought of all these questions when we discovered the newly launched Sifteo Game Cubes.
SIfteo Cubes are a bit like a set of three mini iPods that work together. Each cube is a mere 1 1/2" square and only 1/2" tall. They communicate wirelessly with each other, allowing each to detect the others and even to know which side is pointing which way. Like many smart phones, they also have highly reactive tilt sensors, and their screens react to touch.
What happens when you put three (or more) of these cubes together are myriad combinations of games. The entire system is envisioned as a new gaming platform, but already the games available range from fun, silly adult fare to educational games aimed at young kids. Take, for example, one of the current offerings called "The Cogwell Twins and the Amazing Alpha-Matic." It's designed for 4 - 6 year olds, and it requires that kids identify letters and their sounds in order to help the titular characters build various machines. Or "Mount Brainiac," an "app" designed for 5 - 8 year olds where kids spell words and complete math problems to help characters advance.
The concept is innovative and, well, just plain fun and cool. But are we in danger of being seduced by the next new thing instead of evaluating the inherent benefit of this technology for our kids? Or is it ok to simply get a new toy for fun's sake? Does our kids' interaction with screens always have to be based in education?
We'd love to know what you think. Sound off in the comments!