Kids love technology. Instead of TVs and video games, they find their entertainment on tablets and smartphones. But how do you make sure they’re staying safe online and utilizing those devices for more than just entertainment?
Because apps tend to be a little more accessible than a web browser for children, it’s likely their online experience will start in that category. As parents and caregivers, it’s your responsibility to ensure your children experience a variety of activities. Not only that, but you’re the sole guarantors of their safety.
To keep your kids safe and learning, check out these must-have apps for parents of toddlers, tweens and teens:
For the helicopter in you, the mamaBear app allows you to keep a close eye on your children and what they’re doing. It’s no secret that with new technology comes new opportunities to get into trouble; sometimes kids are going to need someone looking over their shoulder to make sure they’re not getting into something they shouldn’t.
The mamaBear app allows you to keep an eye on your children’s Facebook feed, and soon Twitter and Instagram as well. Cyberbullying has become an increasing concern, so this app allows you to step in without being asked (many times kids simply don’t want to bring it up).
If your kids are on the move, this app also allows you to track them via GPS, and even have them check in when they leave or arrive at destinations. If you’re the forgetful type, it will even remind you when it’s time to pick them up. There’s also an SOS feature for when they’re in real trouble.
If your kids are a bit older, you’ll have the opportunity to monitor how fast they’re driving too. Just because they didn’t get caught by the cops doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t give them a good talking to. Just make sure you don’t take this app’s features overboard; it’s definitely possible to be overbearing.
PBS Kids Video
When you’re not following your kids around, it might be nice for them to relax and enjoy some quality programming from PBS. Now, instead of being glued to the tube, they can be attached to your tablet or phone watching reruns of “The Cat and the Hat” or any number of PBS’s lineup of quality kids programming.
It’s an app that gets straight to it. Kids love to watch PBS’s programming, and PBS does a great job of making certain that all their shows are packed with educational lessons and helpful tools for living. Best of all, there’s little chance anything inappropriate will pop up on PBS, so you can feel safe knowing your kids are watching something good. Oh, and it’s also free.
Even assuming you’re monitoring your kids’ activities online, that doesn’t necessarily make them immune from foul play. If anything, your kids are that much more vulnerable to security risks because they’re less likely to be able to see around corners and make educated decisions.
So what exactly is ExpressVPN? It’s a virtual private network (VPN) that keeps anyone and everyone (both you AND the kids) a whole lot safer when using the net. A VPN acts as a medium between you and the rest of the net, transmitting your data and requests anonymously through an encrypted network. Then, when data is sent back, that information is also encrypted and returned to you safely.
Effectively this means malicious individuals such as hackers are less likely to intercept you or your children’s activities and upload dangerous malware. These sorts can create all kinds of problems for you and your family, sometimes going as far as breaking your device or stealing your (or your kids’) information.
ExpressVPN is one of the best VPN services available because it does not interfere with your connection speed and keeps your information secure. While not free, its services are definitely worth the small monthly cost.
You probably haven’t seen this one since grade school; not only does Reading Rainbow still exist, but now it even has an app! Though it’s a subscription service, Reading Rainbow gives you and your kids access to hundreds of books. Books aren’t all they have to offer; they also have a library of educational videos to watch just like back when you were a kid.
We like this one because it gives you a real opportunity to bring story time into the tech era. With a bunch of books to choose from, your kids can either read on their own, or you can read together without being stuck reading the same book every night before bed.
If you haven’t played this one, now’s your chance to try it as an app. Mad Libs is finally available on both iPhone and Android platforms. The free version has 21 different words to pick from (and they claim to be adding new free content all the time) with the option to purchase additional content separately. It’s a simple game, but it’s fun for both children and adults.
The premise of the game is simple: a story with blank spaces is generated, and it’s your job to fill in those spaces with words you have available. It sounds simple, and that’s because it is. The real charm of Mad Libs is in filling the blanks with words that make sense but are entertaining for everyone listening. Normally Mad Libs is a game you play with a group of people, but the app also allows children to play on their own.
This is one you may want to check out for yourself because the words being used don’t necessarily have to be elementary.
Be Safe, Have Fun
Though technology continues to offer us new challenges, bright minds come up with novel solutions every day. Despite the difficulties of ensuring your child’s safety while using the net, there are plenty of tools available to help. They are no replacement for you, but it sure feels great to have a helping hand here and there.
As always, keep an eye on what your kids are consuming. Fancy VPNs and monitoring apps work wonders, but only if you’re staying engaged. Just be sure you don’t smother anyone in the process!