SmartyCard: Learn and Earn for Kids

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smartycardAttention all parents who are tired of arguing with their kids about whether or not educational games are fun. If you’ve found that the “bribe” system works great with your kid, then SmartyCard is for you.

It works like this: parents set up an account for their kids, add whatever information they think the system needs to know (age group, learning level, what subjects to emphasize, etc.). Then they fund the account with money—basically, $1 equals .50 in refundable points. They Then then turn their kids loose on this child-friendly site.

The children play games that are offered up and earn points as they succeed. These points can be redeemed for prizes like iPods, iTunes credits, and memberships at Club Penguin. Basically, ten bucks gets 5,000 points to reward to your kids and those 5,000 points will buy about $5 worth of merchandise or prizes.

Some parents are lauding the site as the greatest learning tool since Speak n Spell. I don’t take this view. For what it’s worth, it seems to me that sites like this are nothing more than new versions of the old “boob tube” scenario where children are put on automated entertainment so parents don’t have to deal with them.

I might be sounding old here, but in my day, my parents actually sat at the kitchen table and talked with us while we ate dinner. My dad actually gave us chores to do and my mom actually read homework with us. There was actual interaction in my childhood. Today, it seems, kids are pushed off onto the latest techno-toy to keep them occupied while parents do their own thing.

But I can see where things like this are getting popular and might have some merit. At least the kids aren’t sneaking into their rooms to play GTA behind their parent’s backs, I guess. Could be worse.

SmartyCard is a kid-friendly and based in San Mateo, California. It launched earlier this year and its founders include charter Revolution Ventures member Robert Hutter and Bhavin Shah of Leapfrog Enterprises.

A free version of SmartyCard is available that does not fund merchandise rewards, but lets kids play the games anyway.

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7 Comments
  1. Aaron Burcell

    April 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Gary, I appreciate the input on SmartyCard. But, you're not quite getting the point. This is a tool for the whole family — kids and parents can do this together. Our own customer research shows that parents and kids are using SmartyCard as a supplement, and they're having fun playing educational games together. The analogy is board game night, not boob tube. Would like your reaction to that.

  2. Craig (lapp)

    April 15, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Perhaps that's what SmartyCard is made for, but it seems to me that most of these types of tools tend to get used as “feel good” measures that parents use to occupy their kids without feeling guilty about it.

    Whether that's what it's designed for or that's how it appears to be being used wasn't the point. Gary talked about the site as a boob tube replacement because that's often how these sorts of things seem to be viewed by many. Of course, good parents will interact with their children and will use tools like SmartyCard as an asset to supplement and enhance the learning process.

    However, the way the site is set up, it appears that it would more likely be used as a way to bribe children into doing “homework” rather than as a way to socialize with the child while involved in the learning process. Let's face it, more often than not bribery is how parents get their children to “behave” and any child psychologist will tell you that this is sending the wrong message to the child.

    Gary doesn't seem to be knocking SmartyCard's value as a learning enhancement tool, just the social phenomenon it will likely cater to.

  3. Aaron Burcell

    April 15, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    @Craig, SmartyCard doesn't market or suggest bribing children to do their homework. SmartyCard reinforces the universal values of learning and achievement, and provides families with supplemental learning activities that a parent can choose to use. But, to your point, we can't control usage and application within the home. I just wonder where you draw a distinctions on judging parents? It's an interesting conversation. I've heard members of the media tell me “bribing” kids for grades or learning activities is wrong and teaches the wrong values, but they give their children an allowance in exchange for completing chores. Is that wrong? Is it wrong to give children their desert only after they've eaten their vegetables? Strong viewpoints on both sides, but, I'm just wondering, where parents draw distinctions, etc. Personally, my kids are all about negotiating, my house is a marketplace where all manner of activities are on the table… sorry if that offends anyone.

  4. Craig (lapp)

    April 15, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I actually agree with you, though growing up, my household wasn't nearly as libertarian. I was expected to do chores and if I needed money, I had to go get it myself at a job outside of the home. I believe in discipline and teaching the value of hard work, but also in the way free market capitalism works and that these principles should be instilled in our children.

    I guess where parents draw the line is up to them, in their households, to decide. I also know through experience that most parents teach their children through a combination of coercion and bribery. Whether this is right or wrong is subjective, but in my view it's not the correct way to teach children academically. Some force is necessary with all children in order to instill the basics of right vs. wrong and rewards for good behavior are also fine if used correctly.

    The problem comes when parents use those rewards as the only incentive to get their kids to perform. Eventually, the child will stop doing things that don't offer instant gratification. If learning and academics are tied purely to rewards, the child learns only to parrot what's needed to get the reward and nothing more. The largest failure in our school systems today, in my mind, is the failure to teach kids to enjoy learning. Instead, they teach kids to “do it or else.” Every parent knows that this works until the child believes he or she will not be held accountable. Then the discipline is out the window.

    I see real value in services such as your website, but I also see that quite often those become a crutch instead of a stepping stone.

  5. sammygalasso

    April 19, 2009 at 12:24 am

    This is pretty cool, my youngest is trying this now

  6. sammygalasso

    April 19, 2009 at 5:24 am

    This is pretty cool, my youngest is trying this now

  7. Games for Children

    February 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Thanks, it’s really a knowledgeable article .Gives lot of info about smarty card. The input of the smarty card is really amazing.SmartyCard’s unique system allows kids to earn points by playing interactive educational games and quizzes, which are then redeemed for popular real-world and virtual-world rewards.

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