Long gone are the generations of children who filled afternoons playing Monopoly or baking a cake for entertainment. Instead we have the tsunami of iPads, tablets, laptops and smart phones which never cease to fixate the young eyes of today. It seems the rise of technology has got a strong and unyielding grip on everyone, young or old, in today’s society and unless you run off to outer Mongolia it seems it is here to stay.
Like many of the cynics out there, we too question how healthy this technological obsession is. But nothing good ever comes from burying your head in the sand, and it is an age-old fact that if you say a child 100% cannot have something, you’re guaranteed a 100% increase in the whines and pleas to play with said thing. So, if you can’t beat them….
Whilst there are mountains of available apps, devices and downloads available we thought we’d look at some of the best and worst parent-voted apps out there, specifically aimed to entice children. We wanted to find honest reviews from parents with actual children, not advertisers with a sale in mind.
5 of the best apps for children:
For these, we thought the apps might as well have some educational benefit to them - couple fun with learning, what could be better, eh?
1. Habitat the Game: the premise of this one is your child will learn about caring for the environment by adopting a polar bear and keeping him/her healthy by completing events and performing good deeds in the real world, like turning off the lights when they leave the room.Raising eco-warriors from the get go! Aimed for ages 6+
2. Flow Free: While this one says it is for kids, we’ve definitely found ourselves hooked to completing these colourful mind games! A relatively simple game - connect the coloured dots, sounds easy, right? However, with over 2,000 puzzles with increasing difficulty available for free and a new Daily Puzzle every day, you’ll find this game provides endless entertainment for your little ones (and you!) Plus, there’s available extension packs - with hints for when you get really stuck! Aimed for ages 3 to 63.
3. Fish School: Remember that scene from Finding Nemo where the school of fish form different shapes to help point the dad in the right direction to find Nemo? Well here we essentially have the app version! Fish School exposes your little one to important concepts like letters, numbers, shapes, colours, matching, and more. Plus - Fish School is the winner of a Parents' Choice Gold Award and a Children's Technology Review Editor's Choice Award. Aimed for ages 2+
4. Quizlet: Perhaps one for the slightly older kids - this app lets your children create personalised and specific flashcards and games to test and help reinforce their learning, whether it be French vocab, scientific definitions or just your times tables. This app has so many handy uses to help your kids learn. Aimed at ages 10+
5. Duolingo: Awarded PC Magazine’s Editors' Choice for Language Learning, this app is great in helping your children practice and develop their foreign language skills. It’s great for visual learners as it is highly interactive with bite-sized lessons allowing you to learn the basics and develop into an advanced level! While it may not guarantee you a bi-lingual child in a couple of months it hopefully means they’ll be able to accurately ask for directions or order food in another country without all the miming and game of charades we’ve been guilty of… Aimed at ages 6+.Are you aware of what your child is exposed to?
5 of the worst apps for children:
Social media is becoming an integral, and almost unavoidable, part of today’s society and communication. It is unrealistic to think you can shield your children from every aspect of it - positive or negative, so surely it’s better to be in the know about what’s out there so you can protect your children from potential harm. This is by no means an extensive list of bad or harmful apps out there but it’s just a few we’ve come across that were particularly insidious or unknown that we think parents should be aware of.
1. Ghost and Vault apps:
These apps allow the individual to hide photos and files from potentially prying eyes by hiding within other innocuous apps, like the Calculator. Watch out for duplicates of apps as these tend to be major red flags! Also, you may want to consider using a password to prevent the availability to download apps. Be wary that these apps tend to be shut down quickly but 10 more also pop up in their place!
Unlike your direct messaging or socialising apps, this one tends to focus more on sharing images with captions and text. Most users are 20-30 somethings and whilst the site claims ‘no kids allowed!’ this is an invitation for defiance - meaning that your children’s curiosity could lead them to viewing crude humour, sexually suggestive material and offensive behaviour. If you ever wonder where your child has picked up their swear words or insults, maybe have a check their not exposed to some of this inappropriate humour.
Unlike 9GAG, this is a social networking site that is almost exclusively used by kids. It promotes a Q&A site where users can ask each other questions anonymously which seems fairly harmless, however, like anything it can very quickly turn sour as kids can target one person and the questions can get nasty. Which easily lend itself to cyberbullying and the anonymity means no chance of being caught. Shockingly, Ask.fm has been associated with nine documented cases of suicide in the U.S. and U.K, in 2012. As a parent, be cautious of what your kids are getting themselves into online.
4. Yellow app:
The Yellow app claims to have five million users and is the second most popular free lifestyle app, after Tinder, on the Apple app store in the UK. Often branded as ‘Tinder for Teens’ it allows kids to swipe left to ignore and swipe right to become ‘Friends’. However, unlike its competitors, Yellow does not have an age restriction in place, allowing kids to join and be potentially targeted by older harmful users - an obvious app you don’t want your child using.
This one doesn’t sit quite right with us; the tag line is ‘Express Yourself- Share Secrets- Meet New People’. An app that encourages you to tell your secrets in return for potential relationships sets off immediate alarm bells in our view. Whilst the posts are anonymous they still display the area which you post from meaning you can search for users posting within a mile from you. Posting secrets is ill-advised in the first place, they’re a secret for a reason, but having a geographical proximity to people who are reading those secrets increases the risk of harmful users getting in contact to use those secrets as potential leverage for blackmail. All in all, this app doesn’t seem like something you want your child engaging with, so we’d suggest a keeping an eye on which apps your children are downloading.
The classic saying of ‘sticks and stones…’ is seeming to be an outdated and unhelpful proverb, with words being at the centre of our social communication they are undoubtedly charged with the potential to hurt and offend. We need to be wary of what our kids are saying and what others are saying to them but also remember there are a lot of apps out there that are great - great for fun, for learning, for exploring skills!
Hopefully this has helped build your armoury of knowledge regarding some of the apps out there your children may be using. Feel free to contact us with any of your comments or other recommendations for great (or not so great) apps for children!