Remember when deciding what to let your children watch was as simple as turning on a trusted tv show or looking for that G or PG movie rating? Now we wade through thousands upon thousands of apps, trying to determine which ones are appropriate for our children. Unfortunately there's no rating system in place for kids apps, and there's no shortage of worrisome content out there. It's up to us to take a good, hard look at the apps our families use.
Since we're parents who create apps, we decided to use our unique expertise to share what you need to know to pick the best kids apps. We only choose apps that meet these basic requirements, and hope this information helps other families too. Without further ado, here are the most important things parents should make sure of before letting their children try a new app.
The App is Really, Truly Meant For Children
Just because it looks like a kids app doesn't mean it's a kids app. Lots of apps market themselves as kid-friendly, even though they contain content that's too mature for most children.
To gauge whether an app is kid-friendly, take a good look at the app's screenshots and the description in its app store listing. Does it clearly describe the content within the app? Does it indicate a specific age range for users? To know for sure, download and open the app. You'll want to investigate whether the app store information is accurate before letting your child try it.
Jellies, for example, uses video and photos to give parents a tour of the app without requiring a download. We clearly describe the Jellies mission in the description, and define an age range for Jellies users. What's more, you don't have to purchase Jellies to give it a try. Parents who want to do their due diligence can download and start a free trial to really see what Jellies is all about. Check out Jellies in the app store to learn more.
It Isn't Focused on Making Money Off Your Kids
Once you've established the app is, in fact, meant for kids, it's time to question its motives. As app creators, we strongly believe in making apps that add value to our users' lives. For example, we started Jellies to give our kids a safe place to explore and learn about the world. We only include educational videos in the Jellies app and hope to inspire kids to create or do something instead of passively watching hours of addictive content. Not all kids apps hold themselves to the same standard.
To determine whether an app cares about improving your child's life (or making money off them), you need to take a look inside the app itself. Here are a few warning signs to watch for:
- Ads, particularly ads that try to sell other “free” apps.
- Consumerism. That is, app content that focuses on selling toys and other products. You'll see this in kids video apps with unboxing and child celebrity videos.
- In-app purchases. The app may be free, but most of the in-app experience tries to get your child to buy upgrades or extra features.
It also helps to examine how the app markets itself to users. Reputable kids apps market themselves to parents instead of kids. Be wary of apps that directly target kids. App companies know that kids are more likely to download free apps when they appear as ads in their favorite shows and games. It's not uncommon for a child's device to be overrun with these free, low-quality apps.
The Content Offers Real Educational Value
The last thing you should do before allowing your child to access a new app is decide whether the app provides enough value. We like to pose the question, “What does my child get out of interacting with this app?” to help us decide. Any apps with low-quality, addictive, or inappropriate content automatically get the boot.
That's not saying that every single app your child enjoys needs to impart the highest educational value. Instead, pick apps that mix the activities your kids love with some educational messaging. If your child loves watching videos, you may want to download kids video apps that offer plenty of educational content alongside cute videos of baby animals. Jellies, for example, uses a variety of unique, non-produced videos to expand your child's view of the world around them. We believe in videos that teach good values, demonstrate appropriate behaviors, and inspire deeper thinking. Oh, and baby animals too.
These considerations provide a baseline of protection for your tech-savvy child. As always, you know your family best, and you might want to adopt a stricter approach to meet your child's unique needs. To learn more about creating a safe tech experience for your family, check out our parent guides on kid-proofing your iPhone and iPad, managing your child's screen time, and sharing safely on social media. There's a lot more to learn on the Jellies blog.
Does your child love watching videos? Download Jellies to set up your free trial!