Have you ever downloaded apps just to find out that they’re not what you or your child expected? There are so many apps out there and it’s hard to separate the good ones from the, well, let’s just say sub-par ones. As a parent and an educator, I worry that the content my kids are being exposed to is not beneficial. After all, it’s important that kids learn to use technology, but we want to make sure that they get the most out of their screen time! In this post, I’m going to share few tips on what to look for when downloading an educational app for kids.
Read the Description
This one is pretty obvious, but it does deserve a mention. Read the description of the app! The description should give you a good idea of what the app does, what age group its designed for, whether there are in app purchases, etc. This is all great info, but you also want to pay attention to the quality of the description. If the description is well thought out and nicely written, then you can have increased expectations that the app itself was well thought out. If it’s a shoddy description, then what can you really expect from the app? If the developers couldn’t bother with something so small, how many short cuts did they take on the app?
Read the Reviews
Star ratings are a good guide, but they’re not as useful as a written review. These are very helpful as you can read the experience of other parents with their children using the app, and you can decide whether the app is for you or not. Remember, reviews will not be limited to just the app store! With a simple search, you can often find reviews and descriptions of the app on other sites and even on Youtube, especially if the app has any kind of track record. And remember, if you really liked the app after using it, please take the time to write your experience to help other parents.
After you’ve done the research, the only real way to know if the app is for you and your family or students is to try it out! There are some good quality free apps out there, but the reality is that they are few and far between. A great app requires some investment and if you are looking to invest into your child’s education and entertainment, you want to make sure you do so wisely. Many good apps will have a free trial and it’s a great way to test them out without losing out. Make sure that you take advantage of the free trial and spend time with your child playing and gauging their reaction to it before making a commitment.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to purchase an App
Is it Safe?
As a mom, I would say this is the most important. We want our kids to be safe, always. When children go online they can become vulnerable to cyberbullies, unsavory characters, and inappropriate information. We have to be alert at every age, always making sure we explain appropriate internet use and behavior and discuss what they can and cannot share online. When it comes to young users, the best practice is to look for apps that don’t let children interact with other online players. A well designed children’s app will provide an engaging environment without having to interact with strangers. It’s also important to make sure you play the game and talk to your child about the game often to make sure that they are being exposed to safe information. How many times have you not come across things that are meant for children, but just don’t conform to your standards of appropriateness? And unfortunately, there’s also plenty of things online that are masked as child-friendly, but simply aren’t! Thankfully, the App Store and the Google Play Store have high standards when it comes to the appropriateness of content, but this is something to be aware of across the board! It’s important that, no matter your child’s age, you are always aware of what they’re doing online and always check on the videos and games they like to play, even if it makes you super “uncool.”
Is it Fun?
Obviously, the attraction of kids to anything depends on the level of fun! But remember, what might be fun for you might not be fun for a 5 year-old, and vice-versa. There have been plenty of times where I have picked something out for a child to play with just to find that they are not interested in the least! So, it’s important to gauge whether this is something that your child will pick up for 5 minutes or whether it will provide them with hours of fun (over the course of time obviously!) Although the definition of fun will be different for different children, gauging whether a game is age appropriate can be helpful. A game meant for a 2 year old will be extremely boring to a 6 or 7 year old, and a game meant for 10 year olds might be too difficult and therefore boring to a 5 year old.
What is Your Child Gaining From the App?
Remember that an app can be both fun and educational! We believe that to get the most out of technology, kids should be learning through their play. They can practice literacy skills, multiple languages, music, science, math, art…the possibilities are endless! It’s even better if the app can provide you with feedback and progress when it comes to what your child is learning.
Is it Interactive?
Nothing can replace human interaction, not even super awesome games, but awesome games are interactive. Kids are often on the receiving end of information, but we need to engage their brains as much as possible! Clicking, dragging, making choices, repeating, solving puzzles, etc. help keep a child active and engaged with an activity. To make the process even more interactive, take the time to play with your child, ask questions, etc. (For tips on how to make the most out of your child’s screen time, check out this post). Some apps will even let you create multiple profiles, keep score, and even provide feedback to parents on how the child is doing!
These are just a few things to think about before downloading an app. As an avid app downloader I can safely say these steps have saved me memory space, battery life, a few bucks and a few tears (I won’t tell if the tears were mine or my little one’s!). As a mom and part of the Learn Safari team I can tell you that this is part of the criteria for developing Spanish Safari, our first project now available on the App Store
If you have any questions or tips of your own please write to me at [email protected] or in the comments below, I’d love to read them.
About the Author: Becky Garcia-Muir is a Southern belle from way South, a Bilingual teacher and mom, and community manager for Learn Safari a Spanish Learning game for children 6-8 years old. You can follow her and the rest of the team on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.