What Makes a Good Kids App?

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. 

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No unboxings. No ads. Just good, quality videos for kids.

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. 

Conclusion

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!