I’m delighted and thrilled to see my great pal Erika Brodnock interviewed in today’s Guardian.
If you watch British TV show Dragon’s Den, you may have already seenKarisma Kidz and its founder Erika Brodnock being given sharp words – and no funding – by the assembled dragons.
The show aired on 23 February, but was actually filmed last May. Since then, a lot has changed for the startup, which aims to teach children social and emotional skills through a mix of physical toys and digital games.
Karisma Kidz was accepted onto telecoms firm Telefonica’s Wayra startup accelerator scheme in the UK last year, for example, while securing one deal to put its products into the shop of Telefonica subsidiary O2, and another to preload its first app on 1.8m children’s tablets made by Kurio.
The app – Karisma Kidz Moodville – was released for iPad the same day that the Dragon’s Den episode aired. Aimed at 3-9 year-olds, it gets them to create a character and explore the virtual world of Moodville, playing games, listening to audiobooks and learning about how to deal with stress.
“It’s all around helping children to identify and manage their emotions and their needs,” Brodnock tells The Guardian. “This is just the start: we’ve put out what we’re calling a minimum viable product to test the response that we get from children, and we’re going to build on that, including introducing a parental dashboard to provide feedback on how their children are feeling.”
It’s this aspect that some of the dragons – and people watching the show and tweeting about it – were unsettled by. Partly from a privacy standpoint: will children be aware that telling an app how they’re feeling will result in that information being passed to their parents?
But also from what looked like an understandable gut reaction to the idea of an app getting children to open up about their emotions. Shouldn’t parents be doing that themselves by, well, talking to their kids?
“People say ‘just talk to your children, you don’t need an app to do it’, but not everyone does, and not everyone can. Some parents out there are working ridiculous hours in order to make ends meet, or are away in the forces, or might be in hospital,” says Brodnock.
“There are all sorts of different reasons why parents are unable to communicate with their children as much as they’d like to. If people were ‘just talking to their children’, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in at the moment, where one in four children are experiencing stress, anxiety and depression, with the numbers rising year-on-year.”
Brodnock makes it clear that Karisma Kidz isn’t intended as a cure for childhood stress. Instead, she hopes it’s something that children will use before that. “It’s a resilience tool to build the skills they need at the earliest opportunity, so that when things do become stressful for them, they know how to bounce back.”
The app and toys are aimed at boys and girls alike – this is why they’re called “toys” and not “dolls” – with Karisma Kidz intended to become a brand that spans digital and physical products just like Moshi Monsters or Angry Birds do.
Read more http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/04/karisma-kidz-app-children-stress