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A couple weeks ago, the Google giant was forced to remove dozens of apps from the Play Store due to some pretty shady developers placing pornographic ads and links to malware in apps marketed toward kids. This made us want to do a few reviews of fun/educational (funucational) apps that we trust and that adhere to our 5 Standards for app installation.
What are our standards, you ask? Well, we’ll be happy to share our methods with you!
1 – No Invasive Advertisements!
This is a no-brainer. Apps, even the free ones, should not have ads that take up the entire screen (which would cause Little Dude to accidentally click on it). Apps that are marketed toward toddlers and young kids should not employ these tactics for implementing advertisements. THINK OF THE CHILDREN!
2 – Easy To Navigate
Apps that are meant for young minds should be designed in a way that allows the child to navigate without confusion. A few of the apps we recommend later in this post do a phenomenal job at designing the user experience that caters to these budding brains.
3 – Price
Not all free apps are good, in fact, many are downright terrible. They are priced free but what you get is a ton of bloat due to ads or limited features. The opposite spectrum is filled with apps that believe $20 is a nominal price. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe that app developers should be able to charge a fair price for the content they are delivering, but if I’m paying a subscription or higher app price I better be getting a whole lotta app…and you best be constantly adding new features to it!
4 – Trusted Developer and Solid Reviews
Before installing any app for your child, do yourself a solid an read the reviews. These can often be a telltale sign of whether or not the application is worthwhile. Don’t just look at the number of stars a review has, actually read some of the recent reviews. I say this because a recent update to an app may have broken it or caused issues on some devices and only the most recent reviewers will post this information.
5 – Block User/Reporting Features
This really only applies if the app allows for interaction with others or relies on user generated content…think YouTube. The ability to block inappropriate content and report users/content that is against the terms of the service is a must.
Our Recommended Fun-ucational Apps
1 – Lightbot Code Hour (Free, ages 5-8)
We both really enjoyed this fun puzzle app with a coding focus. Lightbot Code Hour is designed to show children logical flow while using a very simple syntax with pictures. The goal is to have the robot land on each blue square and turn a light on. Sounds easy enough, but many of the later level will challenge young thinkers to explore the most effective way to perform the routine.
2 – Coding Planets 2 (Free, ages 8-12)
Similar to Lightbot Code Hour, Coding Planet teaches basic programming logic with a text based syntax. Players can drag and drop code snippets and change the order that their robot executes the commands. We see this app as a slightly more advanced version of Lightbot. An additional challenge is added as the app limits the number of commands you can use per round (forcing you to find the most effective instruction sequence).
3 – Sky View (Free, all ages)
Sky View is an astronomy app that uses your phone’s camera and sensors to show constellation and planetary bodies in the night sky. Detailed information on planetary bodies, stars, and even satellites. The free version does have a few ads that show up over content but they are not overly annoying and seem relevant to the object you are looking at (for example, I got an Audible ad for a book about the moon).
Why We Are Avoiding YouTube Kids
Social media and video platforms should really stop trying to allow their algorithms to monitor what users upload on their child-centric platforms. A prime example of a failed implementation to this approach is YouTube Kids.
This application focuses on bringing age appropriate content to children. The app touts strong parental controls and even requests your child’s age to present them with appropriate videos. This is really where it falls apart. I created a profile for my 2 year old son and was able to access Saturday Night Live videos within the site (granted, they were a bit tame in comparison to some of the sketches, but not really something my 2 year old would enjoy). I’ve also seen a ton of videos of adults playing with Barbie dolls in a soap opera style channel…not getting good vibes from that.