Our five favourite apps for schoolchildren
What are your favourite apps for schoolchildren, or your children’s favourite apps? Like most parents, I have a bit of an up and down relationship with my children’s relationships with screentime, iPad use and apps and the like.
I firmly believe that screen time can be a positive force for good if it’s done in a moderated and controlled way (especially, if we’re being honest, if that ‘good’ involves me having the chance to get stuff done or sit down and do nothing). The iPad is also a great way to keep children happy and occupied on long journeys. Because let’s face it, there’s only so many times you can pick the crayons up off the train floor or play ISpy when the answer is always the same (it’s always B, for E’s old nursery teacher. Don’t ask)
But as with everything, there is a tipping point, and when their eyes glaze over it’s enough to make me grab everyone and run to a barefoot commune in the mountains where our only entertainment would be weaving organic birds nests and singing acapella with our eyes closed, or something similarly non-electrical.
At the moment with a five-year-old and a two-year-old screentime and internet use is easy to monitor – but the future is coming, and this is when it can seem a bit scary. I was emailed about a poll conducted by BT that found over 5.4 million parents are unsure of kids’ use of slang online, and 85% of adults can’t identify some abbreviations or the way emojis are used by children (for example…the emoji face with cross eyes is typed by children when they’ve seen something X-rated online, but five per cent of parents take this to mean that their child is tired. As you totally would).
The majority of adults were baffled by acronyms such as MIA, KMS and the cryptic ‘99’ according to BT’s poll, which was to mark Safer Internet Day last week. As someone who’s always worked mainly online, I would say I’m pretty tech-savvy however I had NO idea what any of these meant. Did you know that 99 is used by children to indicate to their friends that their ‘Parents Have Stopped Watching’?!
This makes me feel like my mum…and it’s really made me think about things I didn’t think I’d have to think of for a while. But switching off is not really an option for us. I use my phone and laptop for work and that’s something I can’t get away from my children seeing, so banning them entirely would be a double standard. The use of technology is only something that’s going to increase in their lives as they get older; especially at school and when they get phones (for their 35th birthdays).
So I think it’s important that we have an open dialogue and we are *all* savvy and educated about the risks and the many many benefits. At the moment we monitor what they do online (we also have a Kindle Fire for Children from here which has parental controls so you can set a time limit which is useful)
And apps are also great as they are a controlled environment. So here’s our current favourite apps for schoolchildren that are all easily controllable and safe (with no in-app purchases possible – another worry).
BBC iPlayer: Although this isn’t quite my fantasy everything iPlayer from my post on fantasy parenting inventions (which would have all programmes on it at all times) it has lots of televisual goodness at all times, even 5am, that time BC (Before CBeebies). We’re really into The Worst Witch at the moment, who’s watching? It’s brilliant. You can download programmes and watch them offline, so it’s great for journeys.
TocaBoca: The TocaBoca apps are great; I would happily play them. E’s current favourite is the city one.
YouTube: There is SO MUCH random stuff on YouTube (E and F’s current favourites include videos of people playing with Anna and Elsa dolls. These videos have hundreds of millions of views!) YouTube is a bit of a black hole of weirdness and if they’re watching I tend to have it on the TV so I can see what’s there. However, there are some vaguely useful and educational things on there, like the Jolly Phonics songs, Mr Thorne and his giraffe and…old episodes of Inspector Gadget from my childhood. You can also use the YouTube Kids app to control things.
Alphablocks: It’s phonics! One of the perfect apps for schoolchildren. It’s totally educational.
CBeebies Storytime / Playtime: Although we’re departing the CBeebies age gap for Eliza – sob – these are still good apps. No in-app purchases either.
Spotify: An app that doesn’t result in staring at a screen, hurrah. We often listen to film soundtracks – e.g. during that time when we’d all had a bit too much Frozen – and thanks to Spotify we’ve had many a good kitchen disco. We have an Amazon Echo (Alexa. the voice controlled speaker) which means the children can request songs – hence we’ve listened to the Trolls song about fifty billion times this half term holiday.
What are your family’s favourite apps for schoolchildren? Here’s some of our favourite things to do in London and how to protest when you’re a parent of small children