Choosing Smart Phone Apps for Kids

How many times have you seen a parent hand over a smart phone to a kid while waiting in line or at a restaurant? Today’s preschoolers can maneuver through smart phones as easily as they turn the pages of a picture book. So how is a parent (or grandparent) to know which apps to get for their children? What criteria to use?

Word of mouth seems to be the most tried and true method for finding apps that kids enjoy. Parents also go to the App store and look at the ratings, choosing only highly rated apps. But are those ratings to be trusted? And do they provide enough information?

My go-to resource for finding high quality apps for preschoolers is Common Sense Media, “dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.”

I trust that Common Sense Media provides objective reviews, and their criteria are well designed and thorough. While I find their website somewhat overwhelming, because of the huge range of media that they rate, their search functions allow me to find an app by subject matter or age — the two categories of most interest to me. I prefer apps that teach something, and I like the way the reviews explain what and how an app teaches – both content and skills. “What Parents Need to Know” offers a concise overview of the content and approach of an app, while “Is It Any Good?” addresses any drawbacks.

For people who want to delve deeper, their blog contains thoughtfully conceived and well-written information about all kinds of media – from apps to movies to television shows and video games. Their newest addition is Graphite, a resource to help classroom teachers choose technology to use at school.

In a world of ever-evolving technology where anyone can create and offer an app for kids to use on a smart phone or tablet, it’s good to know that Common Sense Media has reviewers who are educated and skilled at evaluating apps, which allows me to make a well-informed decision.