“What is that?” I heard my 7-year-old shriek from his room. I ran in to find him and my younger son watching a video of a woman giving birth. It was shocking to them — and especially shocking to me because I thought we had all of the filters in place to keep them from stumbling upon a crowning head while doing a search for baby seals.
The incident led me to block YouTube from their computer altogether, beef up the content filtering, and find content that was appropriate.
(MORE: Top 25 iPad Apps for Kids)
For my mobile devices, I turned to apps for help.
Apps with preselected content
Download: Gube for iPhone and iPad
Around the time of the baby video incident, I learned about an app for iPad and iPhone called Gube. Gube only shows approved videos that have been selected by actual people. I like it because there is a lot of “Fraggle Rock,” the Jim Henson show from the ’80s. But what I like most is that I don’t have to worry that the kids will find something here that I don’t want them to see.
2. PBS Kids Video
Download: PBS Kids Video for iPhone and iPad
Another app I like is PBS Kids Video, where kids can learn vocabulary while watching videos from “WordGirl” or learn how to resolve conflicts from Daniel in “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” The video only comes from PBS Kids shows, so I can feel good about what the kids are watching.
3. Kid Mode by Zoodles
Download: Kid Mode by Zoodles for iPhone and iPad
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
On Kid Mode by Zoodles, users can find videos sorted for different age groups. It contains videos for kids up to 8 years old, and the content in general seems cute. There are music videos, stories, and videos from shows. Kid Mode can only play videos on the iPad and the iPhone, but it also curates educational games for Android (download Kid Mode: Free Games + Lock for Android).
Download: Storia for iPad
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
Reading can be a hard sell on a device that also has the ability to play Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies, but my kids are into the Storia app for iPad from Scholastic. The app features a selection of books paired with quizzes such as Word Twister and Scramble. Users can get five ebooks with the free app, curated by age and grade. My son is reading a book in the “Beast Quest” series and loving it. My younger son has his own profile and can choose from a different selection of books that are just right for his reading level. After the first five free downloads, you can buy recommended books by reading level.
How to find kid-friendly apps
5. KinderTown Preschool and Kindergarten Educational Games
Download: Kindertown for iPhone and iPad
If you’re looking for intelligent suggestions on what apps to use, try the KinderTown app. Kindertown recommends apps for kids ages 3 to 8, letting you search for educational apps based on age, cost, and subject. Subjects include math, art, science, social studies, and language. We found the free Learn Spanish from MindSnacks app from KinderTown. The recommendation notes that it’s not necessarily designed for young kids, but it can be good for older kids like my son who are learning a language and need a little help.
With curated apps and websites, I can help guide my kids to content that is appropriate and (heaven forbid!) even learning-oriented. They won’t necessarily prevent kids from finding other stuff, but together with filtering, they can help youngsters stay on a safer path.
Down the road, I imagine that my techie kids will move on to hacking my computer and looking at whatever they want — but for now, I think that these apps are very handy.
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