WE BELIEVE: Children are the world’s most important people. They deserve informed teachers, librarians, parents and researchers who take the time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the technology products they use. Children’s Technology Review (CTR) was established in 1993 to help these adults by providing “good information.”
WHAT IS CTR? At the heart of CTR is a survey — a searchable review database of children’s interactive media products. Each product is described and tagged for education content, platform and age. In some cases, it is rated using a standardized rating system designed to give the rater a lens to better understand issues that may or may not be related to this product. The now weekly/monthly publication was modeled in the spirit of Consumer Reports. Paid subscribers are given access to this database and subscription income rather than ads or sponsors funds the work. Originally a Master’s thesis, Children’s Technology Review was created following research at the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. This study resulted in a systematic evaluation system for children’s software. There was a need to better understand the expanding number of products (at that time, there were 40 new titles — per year!) As of 2011, the database contained 13,000 products; with over 10,000 assigned ratings. Newer software and games are tested and archived at the non-profit Mediatech Foundation in Flemington New Jersey. Older titles have been archived at the Strong Museum of Play.
FUNDING CTR gets money by subscriptions or from business relationships that meet public objectivity guidelines — there are no sales links, entry fees, sponsored content or advertising content in the reviews.
The idea is to try to bring some science to the process of “bad and good.” CTR’s instrument is designed to broadly measure five factors that apply to most children’s interactive media experiences: ease of use; educational value; entertainment value; design features; and overall value. Global variables strongly influence the ratings in each of these factors, especially child control, “smart” features (like the ability to adapt to a child or expand in complexity), respecting a child’s time, say by making it easy to save work or progress, and so on. In general, products that talk too much or trap a child in an activity get lower ratings. Again, we think of this as a measurement issue; not a something subjective.
WHAT ABOUT VIOLENCE, ETHNIC AND GENDER BIAS AND COMMERCIALISM?
We attempt to accurately, objectively describe content and business practices for you to judge. For video game reviews, we list ESRB ratings and descriptors, which we have found to be both reliable and valid; but on occasion we add an editorial additional note. The best way to understand CTR is to have a look at some past issues.
DO YOU GIVE AWARDS & SEALS?
Yes, but not for money. Creators of products that score well on our instrument (in general 80% or better) . No money changes hands related to seals, quotes or ratings. In addition, we cooperate with the annual Consumer Electronic’s Show (CES) and Living in Digital Times to manage the KAPi (Kids at Play Interactive) award program. We are not involved in booth sales or “pay to speak” arrangements that are common at such events.
ARE YOU NON-PROFIT OR FOR PROFIT?
For profit. CTR is published by Active Learning Associates, Inc., an employee owned, for-profit corporation. Mediatech is a non-profit, 501 c 3 organization managed by a board of trustees.