Apps for kids: 10 things to consider before downloading
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As a father of a young child, I know better than anyone how difficult it can be to determine whether an app is suitable. For example, I am always alert to the age rating of the app and I look at the content, such as whether it contains violence or sexuality.
Most apps are aimed at a certain age. Some apps contain too much violence or language that is not suitable for young children. Other apps contain too little interaction and are not suitable for young children.
In this article I discuss the most important things to look out for in apps for children.
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This is how you pick the best apps for your child
Provide an attractive design that matches your child's perception of the world and make navigation simple, so that your child can play independently.
Check age ratings and content icons
Look at the age ratings and content icons given by international organizations, such as the European PEGI. These indicate whether an app is suitable for a certain age and whether it contains violence, coarse language or online interaction, for example. This way you can be sure that your child is using a responsible app.
Look for educational and stimulating elements
Find active apps that promote your child's development, such as educational games, puzzles and creative activities, to stimulate curiosity and eagerness to learn.
Check online safety and social features
Make sure the app has little to no online interaction with others, especially if your child is still young. See if there is an option to turn off social features so your child safe and can play without outside influence. In addition, it is smart to check whether the app does not collect or share any personal data from your child.
Use keywords and read reviews
Search for suitable apps using keywords such as educational, kid-friendly, and age group. Read reviews from other parents and view popular and top-rated apps on Google Play and the App Store.
Test the app yourself
Try the app yourself before your child plays with it to see if it meets your expectations and fits your child's needs and interests. Discover any unwanted elements or functions and act accordingly.
Evaluation of educational content and learning objectives in children's apps
I have noticed that there are indeed a lot of apps available that are specially designed for children. For example, my child has an app that teaches him to recognize and write letters and numbers in a playful way.
He also has an app to learn English through games and songs. I think it's important that these apps are not only fun, but also actually contribute to the learning process. That's why when choosing an app I always pay attention to the educational value and whether it matches the learning goals I have set for my children.
Look for apps that match your child's age and interests
Every app is different and the educational value varies by app. Look for apps that match your child's age, interests, and stage of development. This will make your child more involved with the app and learn more from it. Think, for example, of apps that focus on language development, math skills, creativity or social skills.
Check whether the app is in line with the school's learning objectives
A good educational app is in line with the learning objectives used at school. This means that the app covers the curriculum in a similar way and reinforces what your child is learning at school. For example, you can ask your child's teacher which apps they recommend or do some research on your own.
Pay attention to the user-friendliness and technical quality of the app
An app with a high educational value is not only strong in terms of content, but also user-friendly and technically well developed. Look for things like navigation, clear instructions and an intuitive interface. An app that is easy to use will better help your child learn and maintain attention.
Rate the interactive elements and feedback in the app
Interactive elements, such as games and quizzes, can stimulate your child's learning. Check whether the app contains sufficient interactive elements and whether they match the learning objectives. In addition, it is important that the app provides feedback on your child's performance, so that he or she knows what is going well and where improvements are still needed.
Read reviews and ask other parents for advice
Finally, read reviews from other parents and ask around your area which apps they recommend. This will give you a better idea of the educational value of the app and whether it matches your child's learning goals. Remember that every app is unique and what works for one child may not necessarily work for another.
By taking the above tips into account, you can better assess which apps have an educational value and match your child's learning goals. This way you ensure that your child learns in a fun and effective way with the help of apps.
Restrict in-app purchases and ads in kids apps
In-app purchases and advertisements are sometimes a necessary evil in the world of apps, especially with free apps. However, for children these elements can pose a danger. They may inadvertently spend money on additional features or items, or they may be exposed to inappropriate advertisements. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate these risks and ensure that your child can play safely and undisturbed.
Choose the right apps
When choosing an app for your child, it is important to pay attention to the presence of in-app purchases and advertisements. Read the description of the app in the App Store (Apple) or Google Play Store (Android) carefully and check the reviews of other parents. Preferably choose apps that contain no or limited in-app purchases and advertisements.
Disable in-app purchases
Both Apple and Android offer the option to disable in-app purchases on your child's device. Here is a brief explanation for both systems:
- Apple (iOS): Go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy > iTunes & App Store Purchases > In-App Purchases and choose Don't Allow.
- Android: Open the Google Play Store, tap the three dashes in the top left corner, go to Settings > User controls > Require password for purchases, then choose For all purchases.
While it's not always possible to completely avoid ads, there are some steps you can take to limit exposure to ads:
- Choose paid apps without ads instead of free apps with ads.
- Use an ad blocker on your child's device (note: this doesn't always work for all apps and can sometimes affect how the app works).
- Limit your child's screen time so they have less time to encounter ads.
Open communication with your child
Finally, it's important to talk to your child about in-app purchases and ads. Explain why they shouldn't just buy things or click on ads. Make clear agreements about what is and what is not allowed and regularly check their app usage.
By following these tips, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with in-app purchases and ads in children's apps and ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience for your child.
Assess interactive and social aspects of children's apps
Interactive elements in apps are important to keep children engaged and interested. Nowadays there are many apps on the market that contain games, fun animations and interactive assignments. These elements help children to challenge themselves and learn new things. Think, for example, of apps in which children can tap animals to make them move, or games where they have to drag and drop to solve a puzzle. Try to find apps that contain interactive elements that are appropriate for your child's age and interests.
Social functions: learning and playing together
Some kids' apps include social features, such as the ability to play with friends or family members. This can be a great way to help kids work together and learn from each other. Note, however, that not all social features are suitable for younger children. Here are some tips for assessing social features in kids' apps:
- Choose apps with parental controls: Make sure you have control over who your child communicates with in the app. Some apps offer parental controls that let you control who your child can chat or play with.
- Privacy and data protection: Please read the app's privacy statement to ensure that your child's personal information is properly protected. Avoid apps that ask for unnecessary information, such as location data or access to photos.
- Limit the time your child spends on social functions: While playing and learning together can be fun and valuable, it is important to keep an eye on the time your child spends on social functions. Set limits and encourage your child to play offline with friends and family.
- Safety and guidance: help your child use apps responsibly
To ensure that your child uses apps safely and responsibly, it is important to be involved in their app use. Here are some tips to guide your child in using apps:
- Play together: Try out the apps yourself first and play together with your child. This way you can see how your child uses the app and address any problems or questions immediately.
- Discuss online behavior: Teach your child about the do's and don'ts of online communication. Explain why it is important to treat others with respect and responsibility, both online and offline.
- Set limits: Decide with your child how much time they can spend playing apps and which apps are appropriate for their age.
By paying attention to interactive elements and social features, you can find kids apps that are both fun and educational. Don't forget to stay involved in your child's app use and guide them in using technology safely and responsibly.
Check for accessibility and inclusion in children's apps
Accessibility and inclusiveness are important aspects when choosing an app for your child. An accessible app ensures that all children, regardless of their abilities or limitations, can use and enjoy the app. Inclusivity goes a step further and ensures that the app takes into account the diversity of users, so that everyone feels welcome and represented.
Tips for assessing the accessibility of an app, there are a number of points to pay attention to:
Text size and contrast:
Make sure the app offers the option to adjust the text size and has enough contrast between text and background. This makes reading the content easier for children with visual impairments or dyslexia.
Sound and subtitles:
Check if the app supports sound effects and narration, but also has the option to enable subtitles. This is especially important for children with hearing problems.
An app with simple and intuitive navigation is easier to use for children with motor or cognitive disabilities. Look for big buttons and clear instructions.
Some children need special tools to use apps, such as screen readers or custom touch controls. Check if the app is compatible with these tools.
Promoting inclusivity in apps
Inclusion in children's apps goes beyond accessibility. Here are some tips to check if an app is inclusive:
Various characters and stories:
See if the app has characters and stories that represent a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. This helps children to recognize themselves in the app and teaches them about the diversity in the world around them.
Gender neutral approach:
Look for apps that avoid gender stereotypes and appeal to both boys and girls.
Check if the app supports multiple languages so that children from different language backgrounds can use and enjoy the app.
By paying attention to accessibility and inclusion when choosing an app for your child, you ensure that the app provides a positive and educational experience for all children, regardless of their background or limitations.
Consider the opinions of other parents
It can sometimes be difficult to determine if an app is right for your child. Therefore, it is wise to check the feedback and ratings of other parents. There are various online platforms and groups where parents share their experiences with apps. This way you get a better picture of the app and you know whether it meets the needs of your child.
Find the best apps through guides and lists
In addition to reading reviews, you can also check out special guides and lists that list the best apps for kids. Often curated by technology and education experts, these guides give a good overview of the most appropriate apps for different age groups and interests.
The role of parental controls and settings
Once you've found a suitable app, it's important to select the right settings to ensure your child's safety. This includes parental controls, limiting in-app purchases and disabling unwanted social features. On iOS devices, such as the iPad and iPod Touch, you can change the settings for 'Screen time' to use. For MacOS devices, such as the Mac, similar options are available in System Preferences.
Digital rest and guidance
It is important to stay involved in the app as a parent or guardian game use of your child. This means not only checking the apps themselves, but also guiding your child in handling technology and setting boundaries. Provide sufficient digital rest and encourage your child to also play and learn offline.
Additional help and services
If you cannot find a solution yourself or if you need extra support, there are various help and advice services available. For example, workshops and courses for parents on how to handle technology and apps, or specialized services that can help you set up parental controls on game consoles, smartphones and routers.
By involving the opinion of other parents in your choice of an app, you increase the chance that you will find a suitable and safe app for your child. Stay involved in your child's app use and take advantage of available tools and services to create a safe and educational digital environment.
Safe use of apps for children
There are many apps designed specifically for children, with content that is appropriate and safe for young users. Try using these kids' apps, such as YouTube Kids, where the content is filtered for child-appropriateness. In addition, you can also set filters on the tablet or smartphone, so that your child does not accidentally click through to unsuitable websites or videos.
Discover and play apps together
A good way to ensure that your child is safe with apps is to explore and play the apps with your child. This way you can keep an eye on what your child is doing and intervene if necessary. Plus, it's a fun way to spend time together and help your child develop skills.
Set clear rules and screen times
To prevent your child from being behind a screen for too long, it is important to set clear rules and screen times. For example, determine a maximum number of minutes per day that your child is allowed to play with the tablet or smartphone. Stick to this and try to do other activities with your child, such as playing outside or being creative.
Teach your child to use apps responsibly
It is important to teach your child how to use apps and online content responsibly. Explain that they should not just believe everything they see online and that some content may be sponsored or false. Also, teach your child to be careful about sharing personal information and not to just click on links or ads.
By following these tips and working with your child on a safe and responsible use of apps, you ensure that your child can use the digital world in a fun and educational way.
How often to let your child play with apps
Apps can be a valuable addition to your child's learning process. They can help develop skills such as:
- Problem-solving way of thinking
- Language proficiency
- Math skills
Screen time alternatives
Make sure that your child also spends enough time on other activities, such as playing outside, exercising, being creative and socializing with other children. Here are some ideas to limit screen time:
Set fixed times for using apps, for example after homework or as a reward for good behavior
Have plenty of offline toys and activities around the house
Encourage your child to play with friends, both online and offline
Schedule regular family activities without screens, such as board games, walks, or bike rides
Security and supervision
Always keep an eye on your child when playing with apps. Make sure you know which apps your child uses and what the content and purposes of these apps are. If necessary, set parental controls on the tablet or smartphone to block unwanted content.
Play and learn together
Try playing with apps with your child. This not only provides a fun and educational experience, but also helps to strengthen the bond between you and your child. Moreover, this way you can better estimate which apps are suitable for your child and which skills they can develop with them.
By taking the above tips into account, you ensure that your child uses apps in a responsible and safe manner. This way your child gets the most out of this fun and educational technology, without compromising other important aspects of their development.
It is important to look at the age of the child and the content of the app. The creator of the app is also important. Look at the ratings and reviews from other parents.
If you apply these tips, you can be sure that you have found a good app for your child.
Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?
Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.