If you’ve ever seen a kid with a smartphone or tablet, you’ll know how effective these tools can be at capturing the imagination of young ones, and more importantly, at holding their attention. But you’ve probably also heard stories about kids sending emails from work accounts, deleting files or even buying expensive items on eBay.
If you want your kids to have access to smartphone games and learning apps, but don’t want them inadvertently poking about in your work files, then a Kid-Mode app could be exactly what you need.
These apps fall under 2 broad categories; apps which lock down parts of your phone, or apps with built-in learning experiences which transform your phone or tablet in a password-protected Kid Zone.
The Full Monty
By far, our favourite Kid Mode apps are the ones which create a kid-safe haven, with games and stories and learning experience packed in.
We first came across this app from Zoodle after we found it pre-installed on phones and tablets from Samsung and HTC, and there is a good reason why it has such a strong endorsement from these companies: because it is packed with awesome features.
Firstly, the app caters to kids aged 1 - 8, with a different collection of activities based on the age of your kid. You can create different profiles for each of your children, and the app adapts based on who logs in.
There are games to play, a drawing app (reminiscent of MS Paint), picture books with video recordings of Zoodle staff reading them (or you can record your own), and a stack of educational tools as well. There is even a ‘Video Mail’ section when other family members can send short video greetings to your kids.
Pricing: the app download is Free, as is most of the content. A Premium subscription costs $7.95 per month, or $59.95 per year, and includes access to all video storybooks and richer parental controls. You can also install the same app on laptops, and the subscription carries over.
There are a few differences between the KidBox app and the Zoodle app, but essentially they aim to do the same thing. KidBox has some games, video messages and a painting app, plus it has a more attractive layout, with colourful cartoon backgrounds.
Interestingly, it also includes an internet browser section, with shortcuts to several pre-approved sites. You can add your own, but you might want to avoid sites with video streaming as you won’t want your kids chewing through your precious data when you’re out and about.
Pricing: the app is Free to download, and premium subscription options include a month for $2.24 or $17.96 for a year.
If the idea of setting up a Kids Zone on your phone seems like overkill, the alternative is to install an app which will work like an app locker. There are several of these available on each of the different app stores, and each of these apps works in pretty much the same way.
As the parent, you set a password and select a list of approved apps. This list comes from the apps you’ve already installed on your phone, so you might want to spend some time downloading a few educational games first.
Once you enter the mode, only the apps you have selected are available for use, and the password is required to return the phone to normal operating mode.
A search for 'Kid Mode' on your app store should point you in the right direction.
Image: Flickr user Henriksent