How Tarika Marshall left her career in mobile gaming to launch games to keep kids OFF their screen
by Jackie A
3 months ago
Soda Says meets Tarika Marshall, who spent her career working in mobile gaming focused at kids and has now launched Humankind technologies whose first game, Goozby, rewards kids for staying OFF screens and teaches families about digital balance through events and workshops.
Q) You've worked in mobile gaming for 15 years, what made you decide to start a business focused on getting kids off their screen?
Becoming a parent. Technology can be incredibly enriching but seeing first hand the impact passive screen use was having on my kids and their friends, without any guidance, was like letting them go AWOL in a sweet shop.
The stats are startling. The average 10 year old spends 6 hours a day online, hitting 8 hours in their teens. Just 15% of teens get the required 8-10 hours sleep a night (often due to gaming, social media streaks and messaging apps) – contributing to issues with mental and physical health.
Our team (all parents and technologists) wanted to use what we knew about digital to tackle one of the biggest challenges of our time – responsible technology consumption.
We, [Humankind Technologies] have been building our first app with kids, for kids. In workshops run with more than 800 kids – Goozby, a reverse Tamagotchi - was created. Goozby is a digital trainer that grows with you and rewards balanced digital habits. An evidence base was crucial and we’ve spent the past year supported by research foundations including The Wellcome Trust, Imperial College London and Zinc VC (a programme focused on helping companies with big impact missions like mental health that change society).
Q) What are you top tips for parents thinking about their kids time on screens?
Tip #1 Contextualise screen use. It’s not all bad. It can be engaging (coding, reading, brain training style games) or passive, sedentary consumption (mindless scrolling on social media, bingeing on autoplay videos or long gaming streaks).
Tip #2 Collaborate with you kids, don’t just lay down the law. Encourage them to observe their own behavior and mood, and their peers, with different screen use – build their own perspective on impact. Explain the differences and set boundaries together. For an addictive game or platform set a maximum limit you agree on and make family and outdoor time part of the deal.
Tip #3 Empathise with their activity online to establish trust. Let them set their own limits (pre-negotiated with you) via a timer or alarm. Set it 5 mins before the actual time limit so they can save their game progress or send their message.
Q) There's a lot of research out there and competing facts, where do you recommend parents look to understand guidance on screen time usage?
There’s a ton of mixed message reports in the media around screen guidelines that undermines home rules. Bias (media platforms funding reports); Limitations (little research in the field); Lack of data (regulators can’t yet enforce data sharing from digital media and smartphone platforms)
Whilst Parents should encourage digital natives to engage with technology and screens, these are the most current guidelines on healthy screen use. For more policy based reading check out
NICE Guidelines recommends a max of 2 hrs sedentary screen time behaviour per day (watching TV, computers, playing video games)
Royal College of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screens for an an hour before planned sleep time and over 2 hours per day indicates more depressive symptoms. Other correlations include:
- higher screen time uses show less healthy diet and indicators of obesity
- displacement of positive non screen activities (socialising, good sleep, diet, exercise)
Common Sense Media offers guidance on age appropriate digital content
NSPCC online safety information and NetAware
The National Sleep Foundation provides age appropriate sleep guidelines https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/teens-and-sleep
They have all called for better research in this area due to the limitations with their research – another area we are collaborating in to help guidelines and advise policy.