Parents have been able to set controls on TVs and set-top boxes for a while now, whether to try and encourage a more active lifestyle from their offspring, or just to get the kids to tidy up, do homework or even read a book. In today's connected world, a good many youngsters get their entertainment and social gratification online – and spend numerous hours glued to a computer, tablet or smartphone screen. Many smart devices come with some form of parental control, but setting up and managing blacklists across multiple gadgets can be a little overwhelming. The Kudoso system controls internet access at the router, and kids only get to play when a checklist of parent-created tasks is complete.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending that parents be advised to limit total entertainment screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day, that the TV and connected electronic devices be removed from a child's bedroom, and that parents keep a close eye on exactly what their kids are getting up to online. But rather than just imposing blanket bans or restrictions using a device's built-in parental controls or through a third party app, Kudoso allows parents to set goals for their children with unlocked surf time as a reward.
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"My wife Hiroko and I founded Kudoso to help manage the technology overload in our home," explained Rob Irizarry. "Channeling the use of technology into a positive, educational experience that builds family values and character is our goal."
The system comprises cloud-based software and custom hardware, and essentially blocks unapproved content from ever getting past the router. Parents can put together a list of activities that they want their child to complete, or choose from age-appropriate bundles designed by the system's developers. These might include washing the dishes after a meal, tidying a bedroom, doing homework, or walking the family dog. Each activity can earn a child points towards online time set by the parents, who can manage the access of multiple devices via one interface.
Websites useful for homework or studies, such as Wikipedia or National Geographic, can be given the green light for students to use without restriction. And youngsters can also earn bonus points by heading to the not-for-profit Khan Academy, for online learning packages, interactive challenges, and educational videos. The parental interface can also be used to see how much time is being spent online and, perhaps more importantly, which approved websites and services are being used the most.
What the kids get up to on tablets and smartphones while away from the nest is beyond the reach of Kudoso, but at least you'll have some peace of mind at home.
The developers have been testing the beta system with families across the US over the last 18 months or so and, based on feedback, version 2 of the software is now being worked on. The system is being offered in two varieties. Parents can opt for both software and hardware, or choose just the Kudoso V2 software and get hold of one of four approved routers themselves.
To bring the new version of the Kudoso system to the marketplace, the team has launched on Kickstarter. Pledge levels for the hardware and software package start at US$119, with the software-only option starting at $70. The funding campaign is due to run until July 25 and, if all goes to plan, delivery is estimated to start in August.
Once you've checked off your daily tasks and earned enough points, you can check out the pitch video below.