The internet offers a huge assortment of learning apps for kids. They can use them to do everything from solving math problems to memorizing Spanish phrases. If your children already use apps or you’ll let them start doing it soon, it’s essential to supervise their interactions with the technology. These tips can help.
1. Become Familiar With Screen Time Recommendations
Medical experts commonly remind parents that keeping kids active and avoiding too much sedentary time is crucial for healthy development. It’s often difficult to gauge whether your child spends too much time with their face bathed in the glow of a screen.
Fortunately, there are published guidelines about how much screen time your child should have. For example, a kid under 18 months of age should only interact with screens for communication purposes under adult supervision — such as to talk to an out-of-town parent with a video chat tool.
For kids aged 18-24 months, parents can consider introducing brief periods of high-quality screen time enjoyed alongside their little ones. Parents should implement media limits for kids from age two and beyond, including by capping screen time to a suggested hour per day.
Remember that those are only guidelines, and there will likely be some occasions where your kids spend more time in front of screens than you’d like. Moderation is the main goal. If you notice that your children regularly prioritize time with apps and TV over playing outside or seeing friends, it might be time to impose additional rules.
2. Download and Try Learning Apps for Kids
The next time your tech-savvy child asks to download an app, it may seem like the easiest thing to do is just to say, “Sure, go ahead and download it, sweetie” while handing them your phone. However, that’s a dangerous approach. It doesn’t allow you to vet the app, and it opens the possibility of a child intentionally or mistakenly installing a different one.
Download the app yourself and take the time to get acquainted with it before giving your child permission to use it. Many learning apps for kids have top-notch educational content, but others are not as valuable. It’s also possible that you’ll review the material in the app and decide it’s not age-appropriate.
One method to try — especially for younger kids — not to let them know the app exists until you check it out. After deciding it meets your approval, introduce the content as a treat and establish the rules for using the app.
Of course, if your school-age son comes home from class and begs to use an app that his best friend showed him over lunch, your job becomes more difficult. Rather than agreeing or disallowing the app usage at that time, mention that you’ll review the app before coming to a decision. Additionally, think about telling your son that you might only let him use it under your supervision.
3. Let Technology Give You More Visibility
The internet is a vast and often-frightening place. Even if a young person starts using a small assortment of learning apps for kids, they could quickly transition to sites on the broader internet with just a few clicks or taps.
Setting parental controls at the device level is an excellent way to stop youngsters from going places they shouldn’t online. However, there are even more robust options that work with your router. Others also have a social media aspect that enables you to see how your kids interact with their favorite platforms, even away from home.
If you choose to rely on tech to better understand what your kids do online, have honest discussions with them about why you set up the controls. Emphasize how your ultimate goal is to let them enjoy the internet’s useful content without dangerous stuff interfering.
4. Get Advice From Your Child’s Teacher
When browsing learning apps by category, it’s not always easy to find the outstanding titles among a larger number of potentially mediocre ones. Asking your kid’s teacher for recommendations about which ones to use could help you feel less overwhelmed. That’s especially true since you’ll then know the exact names to type into an app store’s search box.
There’s another more accessible avenue to take for immediate insight, too. The Google Play Store now has a “Teacher-Approved” section. A panel of reviewers — including more than 200 teachers — evaluates each app before it gets included in that collection.
Not all the choices are learning apps for kids. Some are purely for entertainment, while others do supplement the material children get from school. Besides getting high ratings from educators, the apps in this part of the Play Store limit the kinds of ads displayed to youngsters.
5. Base Your Decisions on Maturity and Past Behaviors
Age-appropriateness applies to the apps themselves, as well as the decisions you make about them. For example, the types of learning apps for kids you let a nine-year-old use will almost certainly differ from those your preschooler uses.
However, outside of age, pay attention to whether your child shows maturity in other ways. Maybe you’ll start by letting your daughter use an app for a half-hour daily, but extend it to 45 minutes once she shows evidence of learning worthwhile content and obeys when you say it’s time to stop for the day.
Conversely, if your child doesn’t follow the rules you set for learning apps, that doesn’t mean it’s time to do away with those offerings. Instead, choose suitable disciplinary action and give your kid a chance to prove to you that they learned their lesson.
6. Avoid Allowing Screen Time Before Bed
It’s great to see your child get so excited when using learning apps for kids. However, problems can arise if they engage with them too close to bedtime.
Statistics show that kids older than toddlers lose an average of 26.4 minutes of sleep per night for every hour spent with a tablet. A related issue is that the most successful apps feature built-in mechanisms to keep people engaged. That’s not helpful if it’s time to snooze.
Think about setting a rule that your kids must stop using screen-based devices at least two hours before bedtime. Getting specific like that helps them start to unwind and mentally get prepared to slumber.
The exception you might make is if your kids use apps that teach them to meditate to fall asleep faster or let them choose stories read aloud. In those cases, explore how you could keep app interaction to a minimum. For example, you might set up the meditation for them and let it run, but place the device on a dresser across the room, making your kids less likely to play with it.
Using Tech Safely and Effectively
We live in an increasingly tech-centric world. These tips about letting your household’s younger members use learning apps for kids will help you keep them safe while increasing their chances of getting the most out of the content.
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