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How to choose a good app for your child

If it feels like the world of apps is overwhelming, that’s because it is!

Increasingly, many kids have personal devices like smart phones and tablets. There are hundreds of apps available for everything from education to communication, games, even road trips – the challenge for parents is knowing how to choose the right app for their child.

The good news is that apps are a promising educational tool that supports learning and life skills. How do we know which apps are worthwhile for our kids, and which ones should be avoided?

1) A good app combines education with entertainment

Kids are more likely to learn when they are engaged. Whether it is teaching literacy or math skills, the app should be both fun and challenging. Children need opportunities to play and try something new. Add value to their learning by joining in the experience and taking turns using the device.

2) Select games that are developmentally appropriate for your child

Is the app right for your child and what they can do? Be guided by the app’s age recommendations, but remember all kids are different. Ask yourself, is this a skill or storyline my child is capable of following right now?

Touch screen technology is a significant advance for young children – it’s easy and intuitive for kids to navigate. For pre-readers, make sure there are audio cues and not just words on a screen.

3) Select trusted, reliable brands

Look for established brands that are known for producing quality educational content.

4) Before you download:

Check if the app is safe. If your child is invited to connect or converse with strangers on the app, or has the opportunity to share personal information, then avoid it.

Are you comfortable with the app’s characters as role models for your children? Ask yourself if you would be comfortable with your child mimicking the language and behaviour used in the app.

Double and triple check the name. Lots of apps sound the same, but can be entirely different – and inappropriate.

Is the app trying to market to your child? Be wary of free or “lite” apps with dead ends or members’ only areas. They often make money by trying to sell virtual items to your child, or link to a related app that you must pay to download. They rely on frustration to encourage your child to nag you into making a purchase.

5) Check it out

Talk to other parents about the apps their children enjoy, and why. Ask them if you can test their app before you buy it for your child.

Read ratings and user reviews both by other parents and on sites like www.commonsensemedia.org. Look at the apps that have received Parent’s Choice awards as a guide.

Always talk to your kids about using apps responsibly and monitor their use. If you decide an app is no good, hit uninstall.

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