Behaviour Apps For Children - Would You Use One?

14/08/2014 16:54 | Updated 22 May 2015

Studio portrait of boy

I confess I use an app to track what I eat each day, to remind me of birthdays and diary engagements, even one to plot how much sleep I get over a week (not much). But one to log my son's behaviour? I can't help but think it's a technological leap too far – even if I have been struggling to deal with a testosterone-fuelled boy-child-from-hell lately.

I don't know exactly WHAT, but something happened to my sweet natured, placid offspring the day he entered Year Six three weeks ago. He returned home that afternoon somehow bolder, brasher. Full of attitude. Obviously feeling top of the tree at school, he was under the misapprehension he could rule the roost at home too.

Just a few days previously I'd been clearing out the spare room and found his old toddler reward charts. One for Poos in the Potty, one for Eating All My Meals. We'd not stuck with the charts through his early years though, both losing interest after the novelty wore off (around 24 hours after making the sheets).

Obviously at 10, he is now far too old for stickers to keep his behaviour in check, but it seems not too old for an app to monitor his moments of wilfulness, as I discovered when I did a quick Google on kids' behaviour techniques. Computer-based programmes are very much the modern way.

Despite being an i-addict and someone who would automate their life down to bottom-wiping if they could, behaviour apps do not sit easy with me. Stickers of cats on a chart for correctly using the potty at three is one thing, but yanking out my iPad or iPhone to record a 'please' or 'thank you' or an incident of door-slamming or stair-stomping outside of toddlerhood just does not seem right - and more a failing on my part than my child's.

Dad-of-two Peter agrees: "I think reward charts are excellent visual aids for teaching children, but there is no needs any app versions of it though. All that will happen is that the kids will using the excuse of wanting to look at the app as an excuse to play with your phone."

And this is totally it – my son would relish another reason for the iPad or iPhone to be got out, even if it was as a form of chastisement. And when I spend an awful lot of time trying to encourage dead-tree encyclopedias over Google, and even television via the TV set rather than the computer, it would be totally hypocritical of me, I think, to then be turning techy where his behaviour monitoring is concerned.

Mum-of-one Diane disagrees, and says that for her, a 'paperless home' is one of the huge appeals of apps over traditional wall charts. Even though her daughter is the same age as my son, she finds electronic 'reward charts' a huge motivator for encouraging 'positive behaviour' in 10-year-old Rhiannon.

"I use my phone and tablet for everything else," she argues. "And whereas Rhiannon is too old to be bribed with stickers and paper charts, the whole app thing appeals to her – we use one that turns her good behaviour into points which then eventually get exchanged for a tangible treat, like a new dvd or something."

Hmm. While I wouldn't want to judge Diane's parenting prowess, this is another reason I don't agree with reward based 'parenting'. As far as I am concerned, at 10, my son should be toeing the line and doing what he is told. I'm not prepared to 'treat' him for NOT being hot-headed and rude, or simply because he has done his homework without bleating over it.

I asked Neil Hodges, MD of about electronic rewards systems. His firm produce a computerised reward chart that many schools now use in the classroom. Surely if teachers are turning to this form of discipline, I too should be won over?

"Over one thousand teachers have signed up for the classroom carrots reward app since it launched a year ago," he told me. "What they really like about it is that they can give pupils the virtual rewards but these are backed up with matching physical stickers that the pupils can keep."

He said that his company have found that parents are still ordering 'physical' reward charts, and that the online approach is 'complementary way' to reinforce good behaviour.

"Parents and teachers want reward apps on their phones/iPads so they can have up to the minute information on what rewards have been given," he said. "It means that rewards are no longer limited to the home or classroom and can be given (and automatically recorded) at any time."

Which is pretty much what all the pro-app parents told me – that they have their reward chart at their fingertips regardless of where they are. But I can't help but think I have my discipline methods with me at all times too – an authoritarian tone and a 'look'. It might not be totally cutting the mustard with my stroppy tween-ager at the moment, but probably is more down to me than him. And I think I'd rather up my decibel level and usage of 'bed, now,' than hand my parenting prowess over to my iPhone.

What do you think?

Five to try if you are not me Encourages positive behaviour from parents AND kids, apparently. A 'traditional reward chart on a mobile device'. More for the littlies - reward with beep, chastise with boop...

monstapoints. Uses 'positive rewards for visible progress' for 'life skills'...

behaviourbreakthroughs. A more serious one - give parents and carers skills to manage challenging behaviour through Applied Behaviour Analysis.

Teenage Hormone Hijack

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