Most parents — myself included — aren’t willing to delegate their child’s safety to a handheld electronic device. We’re more focused on the risks smartphones bring than the ways they can make our kids safer. Still, there are a handful of apps that can give parents some peace of mind.
No matter how much trust and independence play a part of your parenting style, here are five apps that can keep kids a little safer both online and off:
1. LIFE 360
Keeps kids safe from: Endless parent check-ins
Keeps parents safe from: Worrying
This location-sharing app for iPhone and Android users allows families to create circles with private maps, messaging, and check-ins. If you’re the kind of parent who finds yourself texting your kids, “Did you make it?”, this is the app for you. Whenever someone in your circle leaves a zone (like school) and arrives at a zone (like home), you’ll get a notification.
Two warnings: 1) if you’re thinking of using this app to keep teens in line, you should know that they can uninstall and therefore outsmart it — it’s not really meant for that, and 2) the maps include the locations and pictures of registered sex offenders (this information isn’t reliably correct and up-to-date, but it is always alarming).
2. ANTI-SOCIAL (FOR MAC AND WINDOWS)
Keeps kids safe from: Time suck websites
Keeps parents safe from: Nagging
You know when your teen is trying to get homework done, but ends up wasting time on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Vine, Pinterest, Instagram, TMZ, and so on? Download a free trial of Anti-social, and block websites that prove distracting during certain hours. If you like it, subscribe. Who knows, you might decide to try it for yourself.
If you really, really, really need to use Facebook while it’s disabled for some reason, you can get around the block by re-booting your computer.
3. ZACT CONTROL
Keeps kids safe from: Late night texting
Keeps parents safe from: Grouchy, tired kids
Zact is an iPhone and Android app that lets parents monitor (and budget, and top off) their kids cell phone usage, set curfews, permit or restrict contacts, and approve or block apps. Not everyone needs that level of micromanagement, of course, and many people object to it. The killer feature is setting curfews. Don’t want your kid to be able to send and receive texts between 9pm and 7am on school nights? That functionality is just a finger tap away.
A word of warning: my high school student often needs to get in touch with project partners later at night than I would like, so don’t set the curfew too early.
4. MOBICIP SAFE BROWSER WITH PARENTAL CONTROLS
Keeps kids safe from: “Accidentally” viewing something inappropriate
Keeps parents safe from: Worrying
Don’t think you need web safe browsing? Consider this. According to a 2008 study in CyberPsychology & Behavior, 93% of boys and 62% of girls have seen internet porn before they turn 18 (or so says Nancy Jo Sales in her Vanity Fair article, Friends Without Benefits). Will installing a web browser with parental controls completely circumvent this? Of course not. Will it delay it? I think so.
You can filter based on age, and comprehensive reporting means you can monitor your child’s web browsing history (and use it to have important conversations about what is and isn’t okay).
Jack Stalwart: Passport to Adventure is a world travel-themed interactive adventure for kids based on a wildly popular series of books.
(they are especially wonderful for reluctant readers, here’s a link to the author’s Amazon page.)
Anyway. Eight ancient artifacts have been stolen around the world, and your kids must recover them using only their wits and fingertips (and picking up a bit of geography, history, and culture along the way).
There are puzzles to be assembled, scrambled words to be decoded, hidden pictures to be found… and much more.
Why we love it:
In-country contacts? Secret missions? Travel to Australia, Thailand, and Brazil? What’s not to love?!
In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I have to admit that being called “Secret Agent Mommy” (a moniker I chose for myself during set up) was my favorite part of this app — I just never got sick of that.
Overall, the app has very high production value, with great background sounds, images, and activities.
Watch out for:
There is a link to the iTunes store to buy the author’s ebooks and audio books (these are not technically in-app purchases, so they can’t be turned off. Explain this to your kids). Also, while this is a great app, it will work for a somewhat narrow age range, say 6-9 (my 11-year-old liked it, but finished it very easily).
If you haven’t yet upgraded to iOS 6.0, you’re going to have to in order to download this app.
Strawberry Shortcake Berry Best Friends is a sweet interactive story app about friendship and teamwork that girls will flip for.
Join Strawberry Shortcake and her friends as they practice all their special talents for the Berry Bitty City Talent Show. Not only will kids love the story, they’ll also enjoy the eyecatching animations and entertaining games. They get to make smoothies, experiment with hairstyles, and do manicures too.
It’s girly and educational at the same time. Win-win!
Want to try it?
HOW TO ENTER
It’s easy peasy. Just leave a comment below by Tuesday, July 30th, 2013. The next day, we’ll choose 3 people at random and gift this app to them via email.
Please note, only readers in the U.S. will be able to redeem the codes. Please don’t enter if you live elsewhere.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by Best Kids Apps on behalf of the developer. While we are paid to publish the Win It! series, all opinions are our own.