Kids of all ages are using apps these days. Even the youngest of digital natives instinctively know how to play games, navigate book apps, and sometimes even download the apps themselves. This can be a great thing as long as the apps children are interacting with are positive ones. Thus, it’s important that parents know how to choose good apps for kids—just as we’ve learned to select quality, age-appropriate television shows and other media. Next time your child asks you to purchase an app, consider these tips.
### Preview the app first
It’s so tempting to simply glance at the app’s age recommendation and click on install, especially if you’re a busy parent. Unfortunately, these recommendations aren’t always spot-on and some can be way off target. That’s because it’s the app developer (not a neutral party) that provides these recommendations. Moreover, not all 9 year-olds are alike, so just because the app is labeled ages 9+ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for your child.
### Beware of In-App Purchases
Many “free” apps for kids (sometimes labeled “lite”) lure kids in by offering one or two free games or features and then displaying tempting levels, add-ons, or additional games that cost money. Some of these apps are enjoyable while others do nothing but frustrate kids. Depending on your child’s personality and your willingness to pay for extras, you may want to avoid these apps altogether or bite the bullet and pay for the full version instead.
### Teach Your Child to Avoid Ads
While free apps are pocketbook friendly, another potential problem many of them present is the presence of advertisements. Of course, these ads enable the app developer to offer the app free of charge, but there are downsides as well. If you’re ok with your child being marketed to, then at the very least, take the time to teach your child what ads look like and advise them not to tap on them. Doing so will take your child to a website outside of the app, which could possibly expose them to online dangers.
### Look Out for Sharing Features
Social media is all the rage these days, even amongst little ones. App developers are aware of the trend and are increasingly allowing kids to interact with others by sharing their app creations or even messaging other users. If you’re not ready for your child to be active on social media or want to ensure that they don’t encounter a stranger online, it’s best to avoid apps that offer these sharing features altogether unless you plan to play alongside your child.
Children’s apps can offer rich and rewarding experiences. Many of them can even enhance your child’s cognitive abilities and teach them skills he’ll need for school and life. Supplying your child with fun, age-appropriate apps is a great, inexpensive way to make the most of your family’s digital devices. Just be sure that the apps you choose to purchase and install for your child will provide positive and safe ways for her to learn and be entertained.