The digitalization of the world has made computer and mobile apps an integral part of our lives/ They keep us informed, educate us, help us stay fit and healthy, as well as entertain us and our children. But, the picture may not be as rosy as it seems. There is growing recognition of the fact that young people, and especially children get overly obsessed with their mobile devices and apps.
Parents willingly spend money to entertain their children and feel comfortable when kids spend time using their mobile devices. That’s why there are so many apps for kids in the App Store. According to Statista, the most popular categories in the Apple App Store are games (24.93%), business (9.78%), education (8.49%), lifestyle (8.32%), and entertainment (6.04%). The number of of available apps for children in the Amazon Appstore only was approximately 15,750 as of the first quarter of 2018.
This market is quite crowded as there is a host of large companies and startups involved in building children’s apps. These apps are built for Android, iOS, and IPad. For the US market, iPad is probably the ideal device target as parents often buy IPads for children and share these devices more eagerly. IPads are more kid friendly than Android as well. Apple has a separate Kids category in the AppStore as a part of iOS.
You have to keep in mind, however, that statistics suggest over 80% of app downloads are free apps. Apparently parents are ready to pay for quality kid’s apps, but the majority of apps in AppStore are free.
What are the main types of kids apps? We can name several of the most common types on the market.
· entertainment apps
· educational and learning apps, which include many subtypes such as:
o brain trainers
o knowledge-based edugames
o skill-based edugames
o language learning edugames
o early childhood learning edugames
o assessment and evaluation edugames
o experiential role-based edugames
o location-based learning edugames
o mobile Augmented Reality edugames
o Virtual Reality edugames
· interactive TV apps
· apps that are not aimed at children, but children find them anyway
Here we come to the main problem with today’s digitalized and gamified world – inappropriate apps and too much gaming or TV watching time can be harmful for kids. These inappropriate apps and too much time spent on these devices can harm both the physical and mental health of kids. That is why app features like parental controls play such an important role in today’s kids app development, including educational app development.
What are Parental Controls?
Wikipedia defines Parental Controls as a wide spectrum of “features which may be included in digital television services, computer and video games, mobile devices and software that allow parents to restrict the access of content to their children”.
Parental control applications can be divided into 4 categories:
· Content filters - which help parents limit kid’s access to age appropriate content
· Usage controls - which help parent control the time spent by children on a device or forbid certain types of usage, for example using a browser
· Computer usage management tools - which help parents control usage of software
· Monitoring tools - which let parents know where their child is and what they are doing with the device
Mobile apps for kids with parental controls also allow parents to monitor real-time conversations on their children's phones via access to text messages, browser history, and application history.
Why Parental Controls Are a Must?
Limiting media use and choosing quality digital materials is crucial for healthy outcomes. Healthy app usage habits improve children's sleep, health, and school performance. Any kids app with parental controls lets parents limit their children’s exposure to violence, thus lowering the lever of aggression and promoting prosocial behavior.
First of all, parental controls allow parents to protect kids from dangerous or inappropriate media. Digital freedom for kids must be limited, as children cannot determine which content may be harmful or dangerous. This makes cyber safety a very important aspect to restrict children from disclosing too much information while simply playing or chatting with friends online. This opens the door for cyber criminals who eagerly exploit people’s poor cyber habits. According to Guardchild.com statistics, 70% of children 7-18 years accidently encountered online pornography through web searches. 96% of teenagers use social networking applications such as Facebook, MySpace, Chat rooms, and blogs, and 86% of girls polled by the Guardchild said they are able to chat without their parents’ knowledge. The challenge parents have to overcome is to protect their children from cyber threats.
Kid’s apps with parental controls also help steer kids through the internet toward quality, enriching, educational resources. The internet offers a lot of information, however, not all content is appropriate. Quality content, suitable for the kid’s age, provides valuable information and inspiration, and fosters development of learning skills.
Time management is another reason to use kids apps with parental control features. Mobile device screens are mesmerizing and addictive. Adults spend hours glued to smartphones or computers, detaching them from their physical surroundings. According to one MIT report, the average American spends 24 hours a week online; and a CNN report reveals that kids under 9 spend more than 2 hours a day on screens. Kids are far more sensitive to the temptations of colorful and magical screens and quickly get addicted to the digital world. They waste time, which can be spent on much healthier things, such as sports and playing with friends. The American Academy of Pediatrics findings show that excessive screen time leads to bad posture, poor eyesight, inadequate sleep, and a lack of physical activity in children.
Parental control apps also protect your online reputation. Children gladly share information about themselves and their families, including personal details and photos. Beside the threat of information misuse by cyber criminals, there is a chance it could be found by a potential employer. Google search allows quick assessment of a person based on the information shared online. Are you sure all the photos from your vacation are appropriate for the web?
And last but not least, parental controls allow the development of proper decision-making through cyber etiquette. Teaching children proper behavior while navigating the digital world gives kids life skills. Children must know what cyberbullying is and must be aware that there are unsuitable websites and information. It should be explained that parental controls are not about limits, but about protection and good behavior.
Controls are not a single solution to make children safe online. Good relationships with children and encouraging responsible behavior are vital. However, parental controls are a centerpiece of protecting children in the world which is both mobile and digital now more than ever.
Contact Archer Software’s IT professionals to find out how to build an app with parental controls which can be an effective tool making the Internet a safer place for children.