IT’S a global problem.
Parents right across the world face the same challenge to get kids active, to avoid a range of health issues – but also to stop the never-ending arguing and fighting over time spent on computers, games, phones and other screen devices.
There are systems such as activity trackers to control time allowed, but there has never been a system that answers the problem using the language of the kids themselves – until now.
ScreenCoach – is right here in Noosa, and it will hit the global market in 2021.
It’s the brainchild of Gary Borham, who relocated to Noosa from Melbourne 18 months ago, and who is extensively trialling his creation out of the Startup Precinct in Lanyana Way, Noosa Junction.
“My wife said she would only buy an activity tracker if it turned off all the other devices in this house,” Gary said.
“I thought, what a great idea; imagine how much movement a kid does if it equals a certain amount of time. Once the time elapses, devices get blocked and allows kids to get outside and more active.”
Gary said ScreenCoach was like an electronic version of a star system on the fridge door, “but what’s clever is with our system if your kid empties the dishwasher for example, they earn (say) five minutes (of screen time) – but if they empty it without being nagged to do it they might get 10 or 20 minutes”.
He described life for parents as “Groundhog Day which actually wears them down: whose shoes are these; whose turn is it to empty the dishwasher; have you done your piano practice, cleaned your room”.
“We’ve spoken to a family in Noosa; they have to put the gaming console and modem under their mattress. Not their bed – their mattress – when they go to bed,” he said.
“If it’s underneath the bed the kids will come and get it. It’s addiction.”
The system allocates rewards of time on-screen, and teaches kids there is reward and bonuses for co-operating in household chores or taking exercise for example.
“It’s also ‘game-ified’ so as you go up to different levels, you earn more for the same activities. So today’s ‘500 steps’ might earn six minutes, but after a few weeks it could be more.
“This is speaking to kids in their language.”
Gary said he was impressed by Noosa MP Sandy Bolton’s commitment to start-up businesses in the local region.
“I met Sandy at another launch. Talking to her I said start-ups were a fledgling industry here,” he said.
“She said ‘not at all’. And I’ve since found that’s true.
“I’ve done some work with the guys at the Peregian Hub, and we’ve got these guys here. There is a community of people I’ve met here who’ve got companies in Silicon Valley who live right here in Noosa.
“There is this community here – Sandy’s a connector – an open door of support and a step towards meeting the right people.”
There’s plenty of interest in ScreenCoach, Gary said, including a once-sceptical friend and self-made IT genius who retired in his mid-30s, Pete Kakris, who has become a partner; they’ve both sunk $50,000 into the project.
“Some friends, family and fans have put in another $200,000, he said.
“The Federal Government has given us $300,000 in Business Entrepreneurs funding, and that’s now been dollar-matched so we’ve raised another $300,000 – so from a little idea 18 months ago we’ve put together $900,000.”
The devices are being made “round the corner here in Noosa”, and all the support services are locally sourced, Gary said.
Tech giants Sony and Samsung have provided advice and are looking closely at it, he added.
Another round of fundraising is underway ahead of the 2021 launch, with $120,000 already raised and Gary said investors – which now includes the Startup Precinct’s owner – can visit ScreenCoach’s website (www.myscreencoach.com) for more information.
“And parents are invited to take trials – they can (also) get details from the website,” he said.