Carrots&Cake, a Kuala Lumpur–based startup, is aiming to help parents manage their kids’ screen time in an automated way. The company, which exhibited as part of the Battlefield 200 at TechCrunch Disrupt, has released an iOS app that allows parents to design their kids’ approach to technology by creating a specific schedule to determine which apps they interact with on a regular basis.
The app lets parents select a handful of their favorite educational apps from the App Store that they want their child to use when they turn on their iPad. Their child then needs to spend a designated amount of time on these apps before they can have free time on other apps. The company believes that this approach helps kids balance their dopamine levels, while introducing the idea of delayed gratification and self-control.
Carrots&Cake was founded by Yale grad Meredith DePaolo and Cambridge grad Hamel Shah in 2020. The husband and wife duo came up with the idea for the app while they were volunteering with refugee children in Burma and Malaysia. Since the children were unable to go to school because of their political status, the pair decided that using tablets would be an easy way to help educate them. The plan didn’t work out as planned because once the children got access to the tablets, they weren’t using educational apps and instead were playing around.
“That’s when I started researching about why kids are compelled to do the fun and easy stuff,” DePaolo told TechCrunch in an interview. “We found that there are real, legitimate reasons why kids are pulled in that direction because their prefrontal cortex is only minimally developed. We started talking to experts and teachers, and that’s when we got the idea to make a platform where kids have to do the learning first, and have their free time afterward.”
Although you can manually control the flow of your child’s behavior on a tablet, Carrots&Cake automates this process and ensures that your child is actually spending a specific amount of time learning.
The idea behind the startup’s name is based on one of the oldest parenting concepts in the book: You need to eat your vegetables before you have dessert. In this context, you need to complete your learnings tasks before you get free time to play around.
“When a child turns on their iPad, all of the apps are blocked except for the ones that their parents chose,” DePaolo said. “For example, if their parents chose Khan Academy and Pet Bingo, then those are the only two apps that will be unlocked and the child has to complete their tasks on those apps for whatever time that their parents set up.”
DePaolo says Carrots&Cake differs from other parental control apps because instead of focusing on simply limiting screen time, the app is designed to improve the quality of kids’ screen time. And while some other parental control apps allow children to keep notifying their parents for extra screen time, Carrots&Cake doesn’t let children do so.
Carrots&Cake is currently accessible for free, but the company eventually plans to offer three subscription tiers, including a $9.99 monthly subscription, a three-month $24.99 subscription and an annual $99.99 subscription. Although the company currently doesn’t have an Android app, it plans to launch one in the future.