Tech Talk

Tech Talk: Kids and Apps

Parents today are faced with the challenge of monitoring their children’s online activity and keeping them safe. I am stunned by companies that build software that targets kids and encourages dangerous behaviors. I did some research and also reached out to my Facebook friends to see what apps their kids enjoy and what apps they won’t let them use. Here’s a list I hope you find helpful.

YouTube Kids (youtube.com/yt/kids/) is a hands-down favorite. Google built this to capture viewers while also giving parents peace of mind that their children won’t accidentally discover a video or ad that is inappropriate.

If you are looking for a safe way for your kids to video chat or message you, consider Messenger Kids (messengerkids.com). This is a controlled way for kids to engage with family and friends in chat or video calls for free.

Roblox (roblox.com) is a user-generated gaming site and app that allows users to create their own adventures, play games, role play and learn. The combination of encouraging the use of their imaginations and getting to play with friends is a plus. One thing to consider, this is a social platform, so they can engage with others. Make sure you know who your kids are playing with and set privacy settings. For little ones, the Sago Mini app (sagomini.com/en) has more than 25 games for parents to play with their toddlers.

While Fortnite (epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/home) is the hottest game, it is also one that you should understand before letting your pre-teen loose to play with 99 other people. Common Sense Media rates the game for
13+ with the biggest concern being language. As a mother of three boys who all play online games, trust me that you want to wait as long as you can before introducing your child to this environment.

Another popular app is TikTok (tiktok.com), which includes Musical.ly. It combines short video creation with music on a social media platform. I love the fun, engaging concept of watching people dance and lip sync to their favorite songs, but it is not for younger kids. You can tighten privacy settings so that people can’t find you or engage with you. What you can’t do is filter the content and language (or at least I couldn’t easily figure it out). If you want to keep your kid from picking up bad language or seeing sexually suggestive content, be cautious about letting your younger kids explore this app.

There are so many more apps I could share, but these are the few that stood out. In general, investigate what kids can do on apps before you let them have free access to explore on their own. Understand that with some, they can easily accept friends or followers, so make sure you know who your child is engaging with online. Any site that allows comments is open to harsh, bullying behavior. Don’t give in to peer pressure or the fact that their friends are allowed to use a game or app. Stay strong, and happy parenting!

Sheila Burkett is an information technology expert and CEO of Spry Digital, an interactive design agency delivering smart digital solutions. Follow Spry Digital on Twitter (@sprydigital), Facebook (facebook.com/sprydigital), Instagram (@sprydigital) or LinkedIn (linkedin.com/company/spry-digital-llc).

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