Tips for Choosing Appropriate Applications and Media for Children

coverWith the release of touch-based devices like tablets and smart phones, children are able to explore the world of technology at an even younger age. Gone are the days when parents had to wait for their children to be ready to deal with the complexities of manipulating a computer keyboard and mouse. Many parents now turn to apps and digital media to entertain, educate, or simply distract their children. But with so many options, recommendations, and user ratings available, choosing the right apps and media for their kids becomes such a daunting task. Here are a few guidelines parents can use to make informed decisions on which apps to download – and which to avoid:

1. Developmentally appropriate
There is generally a predictable sequence of steps and milestones that children go through as they grow and mature. These developmental milestones can serve as a guide for choosing the appropriate apps. However, not all 4 or 5 year-olds are created equal, so different apps will appeal to different children at different times.  Parents are still the experts when it comes to their child. Parents can ask these questions when selecting an app: “Is this a skill or storyline my child is capable of following right now? Are the games challenging enough but not too much that it often frustrates my child? Can my child navigate the menu with little or no assistance?  Is there any questionable language, or any sexual or violent situations?”

2. Educational and entertainment valueblog 6 1
Just because it’s educational doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Children learn more when they’re engaged and having fun. Whether the app or media is created to teach math or language skills, young children have to be given opportunities to play games that challenge their curiosity and imagination, or encourage them to create or do something new. Digital media that convey a simple message or models social lessons like how to share and be a good friend are also good for consumption.

3. Trusted and reliable sources
The challenge for parents is to find apps they can trust to help their kids learn while keeping them safe. Look for established, trusted educational brands that are known for producing educational content or visit sites that review and rate apps based on safety and content. Avoid apps that require sharing of personal information or those that integrate social interactions, like open chatting. For very young children, violence may also be more difficult to ignore in the characters of apps and digital media. Talk about alternative ways that characters could solve the problem. Also avoid content that involves serious loss — for example, of a parent, sibling, or pet — as well as scary suspense, lots of peril, bullying, coercion, or portrayals of psychological dysfunction.

blog 6 24. Positive message
Young children are like sponges that soak up everything they see and hear. Anything that models bad behavior and messages without consequences or lessons are inappropriate. The choice of media and apps should have pro-social messaging and promote positive traits that ultimately lead to the empowerment needed for their success.

5. Positive role models
Children learn by imitating adults and their favorite characters. Choose applications and media that do not teach a child to disrespect others, break promises, or resolve conflict through physical violence. A recent study of Australian preschoolers on modeling behavior revealed that many children tend to copy everything or over-imitate what they see, not just the steps that lead to some outcome. They copy everything regardless of its relevance or the impracticality of the action. In the mind of a child, perhaps they assume that the action has some unknown purpose and so they simply copy it.

blog 6 36. Positive or neutral language
No profanity is appropriate. Children don’t fully understand the power of “bad” or hurtful words but they pick up these words at an amazing rate. Choose apps and media that do not expose children to language they shouldn’t repeat.

There is no question that parents with young children are facing an app revolution where every month a new application is launched. With endless choices, parents need to be aware that there is no criteria for the star review system in the application stores. Rather than relying on star ratings, parents are encouraged to screen the apps based on the above guidelines. They should rather take a look at the screen shots or demo videos in determining whether or not the app or media is suitable. Better yet, parents should test the app to see of it meets the learning objectives or goals they have set for their children. Get valuable information, tips, and strategies on raising children in the digital age. Click here for FREE UPDATES.

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One thought on “Tips for Choosing Appropriate Applications and Media for Children

  1. Pingback: Three Kiddie Tablet Features That’ll Make It Worth Your Money (and Trust!) | DigiParenthood

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