Got a new iPhone? That’s great! Got kids hanging all over you begging to play with it? That’s slightly less great.
Forget slogging through the entire App Store while they yammer in the background — we can help.
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Chances are your kids are already using lots of media. And chances are you haven’t yet found time to explicitly outline your online expectations of what they are and aren’t allowed to do, in writing.
When we got our child her first smartphone, we wrote and signed the following family media agreement. Our goal was to create a flexible agreement that didn’t get bogged down in the details, and I think we did a pretty good job. Feel free to copy and paste it into an agreement of your own and customize it for your kids.
We were most concerned about computer and smartphone use, but it could easily be tweaked to encompass television and video game usage too.
I am never allowed to give out personal information (phone number, home address, or school name) or make plans to meet anyone I do not know in the real world.
I will unfriend, block, and/or stop talking to anyone who makes me feel pressured or uncomfortable. I will tell my parents if someone is persistently bothering me.
I will never use my phone while riding my bike, crossing the street, or walking through a parking lot.
I will be respectful to myself and others, even people I don’t like. I won’t be cruel online and I won’t tolerate, “like”, or otherwise encourage cruelty in others.
I will be a good online friend. I will respect other people’s privacy and feelings when posting photos or other content about them.
I will tell my parents immediately if anyone I know seems to be in trouble or in need of help, even people I don’t know well or like.
I understand that the photos and videos I post, and everything I write about myself and other people online can be saved and shared without my knowledge. Therefore, I will not post anything online that I wouldn’t want my family, teachers, college admissions officers, or future employers to see.
I will protect my passwords so people cannot pose and post as me. I will never pose as or post as anyone else.
I’ll be careful not to spend too much time online. I won’t let it interfere with sleep, schoolwork, hobbies, and my offline relationships with my friends and family.
I will not use my phone or computer recreationally after 9pm at night. I understand that if I cannot respect this rule, my parents will hold my devices overnight.
In social situations, I will make conversation and pay attention, even when I am uncomfortable. I understand that it is rude to look at my devices when others are talking, especially family friends, grandparents, teachers, coaches and employers.
I understand that my computer and phone belong to my parents, who trust my judgment and respect my privacy. However, if they are ever worried about my safety, I promise to answer their questions calmly and honestly. I understand that this family media agreement is subject to revision at my parents’ discretion.
When we gave our teenager her first iPhone, we had her sign a family media agreement. This agreement highlighted our expectations in terms of safety, kindness, time management, and privacy, among other things. We especially impressed upon her the importance of locking her phone with a passcode and never sharing it with anyone so that people could not pose or post as her.
Two months ago, when iOS7 came out, I updated the first day it was available. It was different, but I got used to it. About a week later, I started having problems with what I thought was autocorrect.
Do you know about keyboard shortcuts? In general, they are awesome. You type a word or abbreviation, and your phone fills in any phrase you program it to when you’re texting or typing. Wu becomes “Where are you?”, omw becomes “on my way”, tu becomes “Thank you!” and so on.
Here are the shortcuts my daughter stealthily set up for me one night when I was busy in the kitchen making her dinner:
There —> they’re
Their —> there
They’re —> their
Are —> our
I thought I was going crazy. I spent hours Googling stuff like, “homonym problems iOS7 update”, lurking around on Apple discussion boards, and asking everyone I knew if they were having similar issues. They weren’t.
It was weeks before I figured it out, yelled at her, and fixed it. Although I was exasperated, I was also kind of proud of her subtlety. After all, if she had made the word “you” turn into “I like big butts and I cannot lie”, I would have figured it out right away.
Today, I discover two new shortcuts:
No —> yes
ok —> #YOLO
It’s obviously way past time for a password, or maybe an iPhone 5s. If you love iPhone pranks and practical jokes as much as my daughter, you’ll want to check out Mashable’s “5 Pranks to Play on Your Friend’s iPhone.”
When it comes to staying home from school sick, my kids are absolute maestros. They know instinctively which symptoms can’t be empirically authenticated and which days are least convenient for me. Looking for the best apps for kids on a sick day? Here are a few they can mess around with while coughing on the couch.
An animated working model of home sweet home.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 4+ | Price: $2.99
The Human Body takes a very fun and basic look at the working parts of the human body. It’s a colorful, interesting, and fun introduction to physiology. Kids can send food through the digestive system, tickle the human with a feather to see the nervous system in action, and browse through a brain.
It’s animated, so don’t worry about graphic photos — there aren’t any. Also, the urogenital system is available as an in-app purchase (which you can obviously skip if you’d rather not have your children poring over that particular bit of the body).
Cure toys of funny, made-up maladies.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $3.99
Going to the doctor can be scary for little people. Yes, it’s fun to have your reflexes tested with a rubber hammer, but there’s always the threat of a shot. Kids can role play doctor visits with this sweet app. Dolls and toys come down with such maladies as “mixupitis” and “driedout-a-tosis” and it’s up to your kids to cure them.
Smash burgers, sodas, and pizza and find what kind of nutrition lurks inside.
iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $1.99
Ah, the lifelong challenge of teaching kids to make better food choices (especially when parents aren’t always taking their own advice). Still, good nutrition is foundational to good health, so we have to keep trying.
This fun app has kids set up a profile based on gender, age, and activity level. Then they analyze foods (using nutrition labels) and smash them in a crazy machine to see if the amount of sugar, salt, and oil is more or less than what they should be getting. A perfect mix of health, math, and fun!
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $2.99
Avoiding germs to stay healthy is one of those things that’s easier said than done — especially for children who play together all day. This interactive story book reinforces the message while gently moving kids forward in early literacy. Will the little bears apply what they learn and avoid getting sick at school? I won’t ruin the ending for you.
Did we miss any best apps for kids that teach about health, nutrition, germs, and hygiene? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below.