There’s a huge amount of applications available in app stores, especially kids apps. How can you decide which apps to download for your kids? How can you know if they’re good or trustworthy? We’ve made a list with 12 tips on how to choose apps for your kids.
In-app purchases, i.e. when the apps themselves try to sell “bonus” things, for example, generate frustration in kids and make them anxious to consume what is being offered.
Certainly, balance is key: there’s no problem in offering one thing or two to improve the experience of the users, but doing this in excess to the point it causes anxiety in users can be dangerous.
Apps with ads
Try to choose apps without ads. Research indicates that advertising for kids in apps is more violent and assertive than TV ads.
According to a Popular Science article based on research published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, regulation of advertising for kids works differently in apps: it’s less effective. To reach its desired efficacy, these advertisements treat kids as tiny adults. However, kids aren’t able to tell the difference, within the app, between the advertisements and the game itself, and that can be harmful.
Apps competence icons
Some apps display their competence icon in their store description. This is quite interesting because you can gauge the skills your kid can develop by using these apps. For example, many educational apps help the literacy process.
Some techniques and strategies used by game apps foster user’s addiction.
There are some child-appropriate apps called “sandbox” in which users create a virtual world and there are barely any obstacles or difficulties that keep the player from reaching their goals, such as losing lives, for example, which usually makes players stop playing.
Another dynamic that leads to addiction is from games called ‘variable ratio reward’, the same system used in casinos. In these games, the user earns prizes easily every day, with random qualities.
This dynamic conditions the brain to check the apps daily and, due to facilitators such as the game’s wheel of prizes or the connection to social networks in which users can ask for more lives from their friends, users spend hours coming back to the app in order to check if they can go back to playing it.
There are many apps with these traits in the market and you need to pay attention to what your kids are consuming.
But what now? How will I know which apps don’t have such traits?
Overall, kids apps that simulate experiences, such as cooking a dish, reading a book or getting a haircut are great examples because kids can create a connection between virtual experiences and the real world, and vice versa. These apps stimulate kids’ creativity and don’t place them in a world apart from theirs, where they lose track of time.
Truth and Tales, an app that gathers interactive kids stories, is our first release. For now, the app counts on three available interactive books, four audiobooks, coloring activities and physical exercises. Since the app is updated monthly, we are constantly releasing new incredible content to add to Truth and Tales.
- Interactive Stories: The interactive stories are accompanied by a read-along feature, and, as the narrator tells the story, their words light up on the screen – which allows kids to follow along with the narration. In addition, there are mini games and lots of interactivity within the stories which are fun and unexpected, such as shaking the phone and using the microphone.
- Audiobooks: The audiobooks tell the same stories as the interactive stories but in audio-only format. We’ve added this option in order for kids to listen to the stories without looking at screens, which is perfect for bedtime or during road trips, for example.
- Physical Exercises: Move It-Move It is the physical activity section of Truth and Tales. It proposes that kids move their bodies by imitating the animals drawn on the cards. Kids can draw three cards and choose which of their animals to imitate. If they don’t want any of them, it’s possible to draw new cards from the deck. The postures are inspired by the practice of Tai Chi and Yoga. Kids develop their strength, flexibility, stability and body awareness through these exercises. There is no pre-established workout: kids can copy as many and whatever animals they want to, without a minimum or maximum number of cards.
- Coloring Activity: The Artist’s Gallery offers black and white drawings that kids can color as they wish. Kids are free to choose the colors they want and to paint the drawings they prefer with different paint brushes and textures. In the Artist’s Gallery, there are no rules to be followed, which allows kids to let their imagination and creativity flow.
Only download apps that are in accordance with your kid’s age. If your kid is not within the age rating of the app, it’s because the content is too difficult or there are elements within the app that weren’t designed for people outside the rating’s age range, such as violence, nudity, guns and/or drug usage.
Blue light filter
The blue light filter is there to protect your kid’s sleep, so that it isn’t affected by the apps when they are used at night. There are several available apps that have this feature.
Number of Downloads and Feedbacks
Checking the app’s number of downloads and their reviews are good references to decide if they’re worth it, if they work, and if the developer is readily available to fix bugs and respond to user comments.
Storytelling is how the story is told, whether that happens through games, educational apps, or videos. There’s always a story and a context behind things. It is important to check if your kids can keep up with the narrative’s complexity and if said narrative fits their context.
Type of Apps (e.g. Game, Social, Video, Educational)
It’s nice to keep an eye on the types of apps your kids want to download. Keeping a balance between games, books, video and educational apps is truly worth it. It’s also worth remembering that social apps such as Facebook and Instagram are only allowed to 13 year-olds or older.
Seals and Awards
Having seals and awards means quality, since the app has been reviewed and judged by people who aren’t the developers and also “competed”/”was compared” against other apps for seals and awards.
We recommend that you always research the company that develops the games and apps. Does it have a website? Has it developed other apps? Is there a FAQ section?
Checking the company gives you more security if you ever have questions or problems to solve involving the app.
Parental Control is an essential tool in kids apps since it keeps kids from making some decisions without the parents, such as making purchases without permission, watching inappropriate content, and so on.
Written by Luisa Scherer
Translated by Mariana Gruber