Exploring with the Spot App

by Kamerine

Kids are natural explorers. It starts with infancy - they want to touch and feel everything. Soon they are toddling around their environment. They put things in their mouths and get so dirty! Their desire to learn is insatiable.

It's no different with technology. I think they push all the buttons on remotes and iDevices because they aren't worried about breaking the thing. They just want to know what happens when they push THIS button or THAT button! And it's amazing what they can learn about devices in a short time. I swear my kids know how to work the remotes and my phone better than I do!

Screen time is part of our reality these days. Limited screen time is good but sometimes letting the kids watch a show or play on the iPad is what gets us through the day. The new Spot app is perfect for little explorers. The app opens to a white screen with a ladybug and then the exploring begins.

Little fingers pull apart to make the ladybug bigger... and bigger... and BIGGER! until a new world is uncovered. This goes on and on in the app, exploring what's inside cookies and papers and the table. The whole world can be explored and fun things found.

It was so much fun watching those little fingers going all over and the looks of excitement at discovering what there was to see next. The Spot app is very creative and fun, but it's no wonder when it was created by David Wiesner, a celebrated story teller. Spot allows kids to come up with their own story.

Without a specific task or bad guys to battle, my 5 year old son didn't stay interested too long, but my 4 year old daughter had fun exploring until it was time to turn off the screen. I love how this app encourages exploration and imagination.

This app is for iPads and is available for purchase in the App Store for $4.99. What apps are your kids loving these days?

Disclaimer: I was provided a code to download this app for free. All opinions are my own. 

Kids and social media

I've been invited to appear on CTV Morning Live this morning to talk about kids and social media. I decided that I'd put some of what I'm going to talk about into a blog post and would love your thoughts and opinions on the subject in the comments.

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It's hard to avoid social media in this day and age but when should kids start getting involved? Should you be letting your kids have Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts?

Terms of Services

The first thing to note is that almost every single social network requires anyone who signs up to be at least 13. This is because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the US which won't allow private information to be obtained from children.  Because that's what most of the social networks are actually doing, it's easier for them to simply not allow children under 13 on to their sites.

If you make your decision based solely on the actual rules, your children shouldn't be on any of these sites if they're under 13.

What if you want to let them anyways?

I personally am a fan of giving my children a lot of knowledge. A lot of parents don't think kids under 13 should be allowed on social sites because they aren't mature enough and others believe that the rules are the rules and you shouldn't break them. I don't agree with breaking the rules in general but I also want to raise children who learned from a young age what it means to be online. My eight and a half year old has a Facebook account, but he has very little access to it and it's very supervised (he mostly uses it to play occasional Facebook games or to post a few photos to his small network). 

Rules and Regulations

As such, I think it's very important, at whatever age you're starting your kids online to have a lot of rules and discussions.  The rules I recommend are:

- A parent must always have access to all passwords. If passwords aren't working or have been changed, access to internet and devices is removed. (In our house because my son is only 8, he doesn't even know his passwords, if he wants to do something online someone needs to log him in.)

- Don't expect any privacy online. It's not a private place and as a parent we are responsible for them and their actions. This means they can be spot checked at any time by us logging in and going through what they've been up to. They also must let us be connected to them on all channels.

- Privacy settings must be set up by a parent and aren't to be changed.

Discussions

Before kids go online there are a lot of important discussions that need to happen. Both of these topics are actually deserving of entire posts on their own.

Privacy: Don't share personal information online. Your kids need to understand this and why. First and foremost, it's for their safety.

Cyberbullying: It's easy to be mean online. Teaching your kids empathy and the importance of being kind online is critical and an important discussion to have before your kids start spending time on social sites.

Model good behaviour

The best way to teach your kids what appropriate online behaviour is is to model it yourself. Don't share inappropriate content online,  ask your children if they mind having information about them shared online before you share it, be respectful of others and always remember how permanent the internet is. I often show my kids what I do online so they can see what it's all about.

Where should they start?

Regardless of what age you start your kids on social sites at (before 13 or not) a great way to start is with a closed network. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all examples of networks that allow you to keep your information in a private setting and that's a great way to create a safer environment for your kids to experiment in. 

For more information there are a lot of great resources on Common Sense Media including a post on what a good age to get started is.

This was just a quick overview and we can go into much more depth on a lot of the subjects. If there's anything in particular you want to know more about - let me know!

I know this can be a hot topic so please share your comments (respectfully of course :) below.

Managing your child's iPod use with OurPact

by Eric

For his birthday last September, our eight year old asked for an iPod Touch. He’s been in his room ever since.

But seriously, when he got the iPod, we were able to set up a childrens’ account through Family Sharing in iOS8, which makes it so he can’t purchase new apps without first getting approved. We used Restrictions to turn off Safari and In-App purchases and tried to make it as safe an environment as possible.

After seeing how his parents have a tendency to be glued to their own devices, it shouldn’t have surprised us when he disappeared into his room and didn’t come out unless summoned. I looked into the different parenting apps and discovered:

  • An app that filled the screen with an alert that couldn’t be turned off until usage was allowed again (unless you reset the phone and didn’t load that app)
  • An app that used a VPN to allow you to monitor and block your child’s usage from your phone (except if the phone went to sleep, then when it was turned on again the VPN was disabled)
  • An app that produced an alarm that reminded him that it was time to turn off the phone (which, after hitting OK let him ignore and continue playing)

Finally, an actual useful solution was found - the OurPact app for iDevices (Android development is currently ongoing).

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OurPact is an app you install on your device to schedule app usage on your children’s devices. Once I set up an account in the app, I was able to pair my son’s iPod to it and set up schedules where the device is blocked – where all non-Apple installed apps are turned off.

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Additionally we have the ability to grant access remotely during these blocked hours (“Your homework is done early? Okay, you can have fifteen minutes of apps”) and block apps when they’re not (“Why can't he hear me calling? He’ll certainly hear me now…” – blocks apps –  “Oh, hi there.”).

You can even add multiple iDevices to monitor, which we did when I got a new phone and the younger siblings inherited my old one.

The only downsides we’ve noticed are that there isn’t yet the ability to give a daily allowance of hours and there’s no ability to block only certain apps – though we’ve been told those features are in development in future versions of the app.

OurPact is free for iOs and has been a nice way for us to help manage device usage in our home.

Minecraft, Turtles, and Star Wars...oh my!

by Karen

Something that no one ever told me about parenthood was that there would be a revolving door of interests that my child will commit every iota of passion his little body can muster into loving, before leaving them collecting dust in his room - or the back of his mind. 

In the last three years (he's almost 7), here's a rough idea of what we've run through:

  1. Thomas the Tank Engine
  2. Star Wars (this one has remained constant, because I am doing my best to raise him right)
  3. DC Comics (so far, not much interest in Marvel)
  4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 
  5. Sonic
  6. Minecraft
  7. Angry Birds
  8. Skylanders
  9. The LEGO Movie
  10. All things Mario (of Nintendo fame)
  11. LEGO Chima
  12. LEGO Ninjago
  13. Even LEGO Friends (because toys are not for boys and girls, they're for kids big and small)

It's possible I've forgotten more than what's on the list above. One of the best parts about my little man's passionate dedication to each of these interests is that he wants to inhale every morsel of information about them that he can. He's a fairly advanced reader and he loves nothing more than getting character encyclopedias, handbooks, and anything else he can get his hands on to read. He's also not above mixing his interests. I adore that Brandon's school allows him to bring these books every single day he wants. They are eager to encourage reading of any kind.

Two years ago, on Valentine's Day, I bought Brandon his first LEGO set. It was just a small generic set, but now he's hooked. He also got the idea from Evantube (careful showing this channel to your kids - it's a bit addictive) that he should keep his boxes, in pristine condition. 

So we do.

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Ah, the things you'll do to foster the interests your kids have. (Velcro is your friend.)

It's fun and mind-dizzying and I know more about each of the things on that list than I ever wanted to know. Of course, fostering these interests along with a strong love of reading means that he's keen to educate me and his dad on every minute detail. 

Sounds fun, right?

So, what is your little minion into these days? :)

So, what is your little minion into these days? :)

Karen Wilson is a mom to Brandon (6) and wife to Matt (who is glad to have a 6-year-old as a new excuse to play with toys...er, LEGO). Her latest claim to fame is having found enough LEGO studs to buy Lord Business in The LEGO Movie video game. She's thinking of starting a business - Stud Finder for Hire.

An ode to an app

My kid has been playing with the iPad for a long time and we have tried a lot of learning apps; some have been bigger hits than others. Some she has loved and I have hated because I don't understand what they were actually teaching. We've had some big hits that she still plays with, like the Monkey Preschool apps that I recommend to anyone looking for a toddler or preschooler friendly game. Last week I downloaded the Super Why! app from PBS Kids.

This is my ode to that app.

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In the mornings we tend to watch CBC Kids while I'm getting some a bit of work done, and I had noticed that the kid got into Super Why! and was doing well with the sounding out of works with the Super Why team. I figured the show would have an app so I went looking and downloaded it.

When the kid plays the app, which has all four main characters doing different activities with letters and words. Princess Pea sings, and right along with her my daughter says 'S-P-E-L-L spell!'

She finds the sounds, makes the words, sings and laughs. This app is working her towards reading more than any other she's played so far and I love to watch it. When I sit down with her with workbooks or a crayon on some paper she doesn't get as involved as she does with the Super Why! team.

I give it an A+.

 

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