Screen time has become synonymous with modern-day parenting and it’s difficult to avoid it altogether. But we all know the guilty feeling that consumes us when we allow our kids to indulge on tech devices, sometimes a bit too much.
According to new research from the University of Washington, parents need not fear their children playing with their iPads as “mindful play with an adult, combined with thoughtful design features, can prove beneficial to young developing minds.”
So, how can you choose the best apps without having to worry about them being detrimental to your child’s development? Here are some tips on what you should look for in an app before downloading it for your child:
1. Read reviews by trusted advisors and other parents
Although it may seem like an obvious thing to do, it’s difficult to implement when your child is begging you to download a new app after his friend recommended it. However, it doesn’t take long to do a quick Google search and read reviews from trusted sites like Common Sense Media and Parents’ Choice Foundation. Also, it’s very important to read reviews by other parents as well.
2. Ensure it supports the development of your child
There are a range of apps available in various categories like personal, social and emotional (PSE) development; language and communication skills; creativity; cognitive; and physical and motor skills. Choose an app that will help your child practise newly-acquired skills or that will enhance their development in some way. It’s always advisable to choose apps that encourage social interaction and active play.
3. Choose age-appropriate content
Your child won’t truly benefit from an app if it’s not for their age group. App developers don’t necessarily put a specific age range for their apps due to the fact that this could limit potential customers. Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine, authors of Tap, Click, Read say, “We found that nearly 40 percent of app descriptions and accompanying websites did not clarify the age range for the target users at all. They used terms like child or kids instead of an age range.” This is why it is imperative that parents read trusted reviews first before downloading. You don’t want to choose an app for your child that is too advanced for their age and neither do you want an app that is not challenging enough.
“It is imperative that parents read trusted reviews first before downloading.”
4. Beware of adverts in free versions
Most apps these days have a free version – and that comes at a price. This is in the form of annoying pop-up adverts that bombard your child’s screen, exposing them to things you may not approve of. It is important to sit down and explain to your child what adverts are and how to identify them. Guide them to not click on adverts as this will lead them to a website that’s outside the app, exposing them to potential online hazards.
5. Explain to your kids about sharing on social media
As young as our kids are, they’ve all heard about or have been exposed to (even if it’s just the logos) Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A lot of apps encourage their users to share their creations on social media, thus exposing them to the world of social media from increasingly younger ages. Decide if you’re comfortable with this and make your children aware of cyberbullying and of talking to strangers online. It is much safer to avoid apps that link to social media.
6. Prepare to pay for good apps
The app market is huge and the range of kids’ apps available pose an overwhelming choice for parents. Most of the award-winning educational kids’ apps that have been proven to be beneficial to a child’s development are of higher quality and cost more to produce. If you can afford it, choose to purchase the apps that are guaranteed to enhance your child’s development.
Choosing the correct app can be very rewarding for your child, so take the time to ensure that the apps you choose for your children provide learning opportunities that are safe and fun.