Picking the Right App for Your Child
Yes, “There’s an app for that.”™ But not every app is good for every child. Here’s how to keep your child safe when using smartphones and tablets.
The staff of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center worked with clinicians to come up with tips for choosing safe apps for children of all ages.
- Do some research. If you want an app that focuses on a certain topic, look at many options. Read through the app descriptions carefully. Also, read the reviews and look at the app’s rating.
- Try the free or “lite” version first. This lets you download and test the app and see how easy it is to use before paying for it. You can delete the app if you don’t like it.
- Look at the age suggestions. Many apps for children will say what ages they’re meant for. Review these suggestions before downloading a new app.
- Avoid ads. Look at any ads that appear in an app when you’re testing out a free version. Children can easily click on an ad and wind up on an Internet site you may not want them visiting.
- Limit in-app purchases. Your device may allow you to stop your child from spending money on additional features in an app. Also, make sure you know if an app requires yearly subscription fees.
- Read the reviews. Before downloading an app, look at the overall rating and read the customer reviews.
- Always read disclaimers and privacy policies. Some apps use a device’s GPS to track a user’s location. Make sure you have the option to use or not use this function.
Frequently Asked Questions about Apps
Can I use a health related app?
Check with your child’s healthcare providers or a pharmacist before using an app that provides health advice. Ask if they have a list of health or disease-specific apps they like.
St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Kid Care App is available free for iPhone and Android.
How do I find reliable apps for child/teen education?
Check with your child’s school to see if a teacher or librarian has reviewed any apps. He may have an email or list-serve group you could join.
What if my child has special learning needs?
“Using your device’s accessibility features is just as important as which app you choose, and that may have the most impact on your child’s participation,” says Nicole Weckherlin, OTR/L, occupational therapist with the Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Many devices have auditory, visual and reading supports. They can enable text-to-speech, speech-to-text, word prediction and spelling support. In addition, some devices let parents prevent access to certain parts of an app or to questionable content. This helps ensure safe navigation and usability.”