Today, kids of all ages are using mobile devices for learning, to communicate with friends, to surf the web, and to play. In fact, a 2013 Common Sense research study found that 75 percent of children 8 years old or younger had access to a "smart" mobile device at home. For teens, mobile use is near ubiquitous; almost 80 percent own a cell phone and three-quarters use mobile devices to access the internet, according to findings from a 2013 Pew Research survey.
Apps and mobile devices can be great tools for helping families play, learn, and connect together; though, as a parent, it can be a challenge to know where to start. You likely have questions and concerns about how your children are using these devices. How much screen time is too much? At what age should we introduce mobile devices to our children? How do we set guidelines? What apps should they be using? And how do we ensure safety online?
If you're looking for information, these five guides and resources are wonderful sources. They cover a range of subjects related to mobile devices and apps -- from using apps during family time to protecting teens' privacy online -- and they contain helpful suggestions for using mobile devices with children, tweens, and teens.
- A Guide for Using Apps During Family Time (Grades K-5): This resource, produced by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, features a wealth of information for curious parents. You'll learn how to use mobile devices when reading with your children, playing games with them, and more. Plus, there are also helpful tips for determining which apps are appropriate. The guide is available as an interactive e-book on iTunes or as a PDF download.
- Apps to Share With the Children in Your Life (Grades K-5): If you're looking for creative ways to use apps during family time, this is the perfect resource for you. Although it was published before the holidays, the ideas presented by the Harvard Family Research Project work year-round. Included are apps that can be used to spark your childrens' creativity, fun education games, and useful reading resources. Also, you'll find some great links to other sources on the subject.
- Recommendations for Fun, Engaging Family Apps (All Ages): Common Sense Media is a leader in helping educate kids and families about media and technology. In fact, their site is one of the best sources for teacher and parent app reviews and ratings. Here, you'll find lists featuring the best apps for children in just about every subject area. Plus, if you have concerns about your child's media use, take a look at the Parent Concerns page, where you'll find tons of valuable information.
- A Smartphone Guide for Parents of Tweens and Teens (Grades 6-12): Written by Monica Vila, from The Online Mom, this guide features real-world examples and tips for parents of kids ready for a phone. The guide will help you determine if your child is ready, how to set ground rules for cell phone use, and how to deal with bad phone behavior. The Online Mom is another useful source for tips, app reviews, and news for parents.
- A Parent's Guide to Phone Safety (All Ages): From setting guidelines to social media privacy, your children's digital safety is likely one of your primary concerns. This guide from ConnectSafety, a cyber safety advocacy group, provides some extremely useful information. The guide features interesting ideas for protecting your child's privacy and maximizing security online, with illustrative examples.
Useful Articles for Learning More
Those five guides are a great jumping off point for all topics related to mobile devices and their uses during family time. But it's a complex subject, and as technology changes, so do the questions. Here are some more useful articles from various sources that are chock-full of insightful information.
- "How to Introduce Technology to Young Kids," by Amy Levin-Epstein via Parents.com
- "6 Tips for Buying Children's Apps," by PBS Parents Staff via PBS Parents
- "5 Rules for Your Kid's New Smartphone," by Signe Whitson via Huffington Post
- "Teens and Mobile App Privacy," by Kristen Purcell via Pew Research
- "15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to Beyond Facebook," by Kelly Schryver via Common Sense Media
- "How Teens Do Research in the Digital World," by Kristen Purcell via Pew Research
We'd love to hear from parents. How are you using apps and mobile devices during family time? Are there any sources of information that we missed?