Maily and the Age of Tech Parenting

Will the digital age change childhood entirely? Most likely not, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. With kids like Thomas Suarez, a 12-year-old…

Will the digital age change childhood entirely? Most likely not, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. With kids like Thomas Suarez, a 12-year-old iPhone app developer, redefining our benchmarks for age-appropriate achievement, apps like Maily seem almost necessary in the educational formation of our kids.
Maily is a unique new iPad app that allows kids as young as 4-years-old to send email messages to family and friends. Kids can use a number of stamps, digital pencils, backgrounds, and even insert photos of themselves to create a personalized email to send to their personal contact list. The Maily contact list is created and monitored by a parent, who can import contacts from Facebook and receive email notifications whenever his or her kid sends or receives an email. Maily’s online dashboard also allows non-Maily users to reply using preselected, kid-friendly responses customized with personal content.

But How Young is Too Young?

Created by Brussels-based duo Tom Galle and Raphael Halberthal, the app seeks to present a fun, safe, and age-friendly approach to eliminating the often-confusing features in Gmail and other email providers, thereby simplifying email for the minds of kids. However, does this push kids too far too fast? Maily can easily seem like just another way for helicopter parents to push their kids — in line with tutoring 5-year-olds on how to properly hold a pencil, Mandarin lessons in nursery school, broadband connection in tree houses, and countless other prodigy-forming after-school activities. So, are we foregoing some of the inherent “ignorance is bliss” attitude of childhood in an effort just to keep our kids one step ahead of the curve?
Along with these concerns comes the continuing effort, especially in America, to keep our kids active. With the use of any technological device there is an accepted trade-off between physical activity and the sedentary idleness of the web. Yet, are we merely voicing our own fears in an effort to control an already tech-savvy generation? Are our kids too young or are we too old?

Better than their Teachers

In a survey of 2,000 British parents, Disney found that a third of parents find apps—ranging from iPhones to Android devices and tablets — an essential element to family life. With over 75-percent of parents sharing their app-enabled devices with their kids, many of them often find themselves satisfying their kids’ requests to download a new app. What is more revealing, still, is that over 56-percent of parents or relatives found themselves being instructed by a kid as to how to use a mobile device.
Yet, if the thought of screen-glued youngsters still alarms you, perhaps we shouldn’t necessarily think of this phenomenon as completely alien, but rather just a transfer of mediums. Maily, with its accessible dashboard and easy to use features can be seen as more of a modern coloring book than a website-coding experience, as kids are basically doing all of the same stuff, just paperless. After all, our brains are inherently equipped to adapt to new developments (it is shocking to think that most of the humans that have ever lived never read a single word). Apps like Maily simply make the transition easier.

In the Absence of Boundaries

The ramifications of this trend, however, can fire back on the parents, as kids only need to know their parents’ iPhone or iPad password to purchase apps on the App Store. Additionally, apps like TinyZoo, an app in which kids can grow and nurture virtual animals, sell for free but offer new species of animals every week for purchase. TinyZoo made over $50,000 on the appropriately named Cash Cow, one of their latest species for sale.
While these findings point to an increasing generational gap, one in which the pervasive presence of technology is fueling our kids to new achievement, there is also an alarming lack of supervision. With the absence of a Kids category on the App Store, kids are forced to rummage through countless apps, downloading any at their fancy. Access, however, does not prove to be the defining factor, as only apps that truly grab our interest merit a download. A middle ground can thus be achieved with apps like Maily, whose appealing childlike aesthetic lures kids to explore the world of apps through a safe, age-appropriate app.
Nonetheless, supervised or not, kids will continue to join the mobile app community and, while some apps, may not be age-appropriate, Maily provides a great introduction to the medium. Just like when our parents would force us to cover our eyes during a racy commercial or movie, we must do the same to keep our kids—keeping them safe without sheltering them from the innovations of our age.

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