Parents from across the globe are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of mobile technology in their children’s lives. Recent surveys have clearly indicated that kids’ apps are gradually substituting television as the prime source of entertainment for the little ones. There are many Android and iPhone apps for children that offer educational benefits as well. But first, you need to get your child familiar with the mode of usage of such applications in particular, and the operations of your mobile device, in general. How can you go about this? Here’s how:
- Lend your smartphone/tablet to your kid – For maybe a couple of hours everyday. Children love to lay their hands on new gadgets and devices, and your son/daughter would surely relish checking out your ‘oh-so-cool’ handset. Teach him how to switch on and switch off the device, adjust the volume controls, alter the screen brightness, and other such basic features.
- Install an array of mobile apps for kids first – It’s just like reading a book first time – if a child does not like it, interest levels wane rapidly. Make sure that the charms of using a mobile phone does not wear off too soon for your li’l one. You will find plenty of good iPhone apps and games for kids in the iTunes store, and Android applications in the Google Play Store. Depending on the type of device you own, install some of these free apps – and then hand it over to your child.
- Learn about the apps yourself – From learning apps for kids to mobile games, every type of mobile software for children is labeled as ‘child-friendly.’ Not all of them are equally so though, and it would be advisable for you to check out the app’s controls and navigation features first. If there are any special features/tapping properties, learn them and instruct your kid accordingly. Stay around as much as you can, when your child is using mobile apps. You will love being together…and the colorful, interactive kids’ apps might bring a chuckle to your face too.
- Give responsibility to your child – During the time you give your smartphone or tablet to your child, the well-being of the gadget is his/her responsibility. Tell the little one to handle the device with care, and give small rewards whenever (s)he uses it just as you had instructed. This will instill a sense of responsibility in a child, and sooner than you know, (s)he might become ready to own his/her very own smartphone.
- Assign a fixed time for mobile usage – A proper timetable is important for seamlessly arranging all your kid’s activities. His/her mobile usage is not an exception to this. Specify the period of time during which (s)he can use your phone to play games, use learning apps for kids, listen to fun sounds, and other such purposes. Lay down a few ground rules – like not talking or texting at mealtimes, not staying hooked to mobile screens till late at night, etc. Proper mobile usage includes being disciplined as well.
- Go for interactive mobile applications – Choose educational and storytelling apps for kids that encourage active participation from the little users. The apps you select should have high-quality sound effects, audio narration features, pop-ups and figures that can be tapped on, and engaging animations. There should be games and puzzles bundled in as well. Ideally, you want your child to interact as much as possible with your mobile device (without, of course, damaging it in any way). Most app developers do focus on making kids’ apps that foster two-way communication.
- Find out how mobile technology can benefit elementary education – There are literally hundreds of well-reviewed, free educational apps for children. It is impossible for parents to have a first-hand experience of using apps from beforehand (oh come on, when we were little, mobile phones were not ‘smart’!). To avoid confusions as to what type of learning apps would actually prove to be useful, get in touch with your child’s kindergarten teachers/instructors. They should be able to help you get a proper idea of the nature of apps you should download for your son/daughter.
- Allow your child to show off a bit – There are many interactive mobile games for children, which can get the competitive juices of your child flowing. Some of the popular alphabet and number-learning games are also designed in the form of games. It is only natural that when the li’l completes a challenge successfully, (s)he will brag about it a bit (or a lot!) to you. Let him enjoy the moment, and encourage him/her to aim for even tougher challenges. Learning new stuff while playing mobile games – what can be more exciting?
- Educate your child about mobile safety norms – Thanks to the proliferation of mobile app development over the last two to three years, there is now a wealth of apps and games for children of various age-groups. Unfortunately, cyber risks related to apps have also increased manifold, and your child needs to be aware about how (s)he can stay safe. Tell him to never share personal details (name, address, contact number, etc.) on any app, not chat with other people without taking your permission first, and avoid unnecessarily tinkering with the settings of the device itself. Mobile safety, in essence, refers to two things: protecting personal information from falling in the wrong hands, and keeping the expensive devices out of harm’s way.
- Pay heed to your child’s complaints – Consider this: you have downloaded supposedly the best iPhone app for kids for your son/daughter. Even so, the little one keeps complaining about the app not functioning properly. Should you dismiss such complaints as meaningless whinings of the kid? Absolutely not, since there are a lot of companies which release kids’ apps without properly testing them. As a result, there remains a possibility of bugs and malware being present (this risk is more on the Android platform). Check the app thoroughly, make sure everything is working correctly – and if not, contact the developer (you can, of course, simply uninstall the faulty app). Install the app upgrades, as and when they are released.
- Be patient – You cannot expect your cute little three-year old child understand everything you are telling him/her about mobile handsets and tablets and apps. Remember, patience is always a virtue while dealing with kids. Explain the features of the gadget clearly, explain the flow in which the downloaded mobile apps for kids work, and reiterate the guidelines for keeping the device safe. Make sure that your child has understood everything properly. If (s)he faces any confusion while playing games or going through stories on a reading app, you should be on hand to resolve the queries.
- Do not let your kid purchase anything from the app on his/her own – Some of the contemporary kids’ apps have really excellent in-app purchase options (think: digital interactive storybooks on storytelling apps). However, your child is not supposed to check them out on his/her own. All in-app purchases involving financial transactions should be done by you. Get an idea of the type of stuff (books, games, etc.) that your child would love, and purchase accordingly.
Always go for kids’ apps that have reliable parental control features. That would automatically rule out the chances of accidental downloads. In the unlikely scenario of your child appearing disinterested in mobile gadgets and apps, let him/her be – not everyone’s interests lie in the same direction. In general though, getting familiar with mobile technology is essential for your child – and you can certainly do your bit to help in this regard.
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