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. 

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).


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.


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.

Kids and Technology

I read an article the other day talking about how kids today have too much too soon and are too plugged in. The article advocated simplifying your kids’ lives, ridding them of stuff and eliminating their screen time. I admit I’m a little biased. I work in social media. I will also admit that I’m a helicopter mom who feels more comfortable knowing where my kids are and knowing that they can get in touch with me if they need to.  But I also really believe that if parents limit the access their child has to the technology out there, they will be at a real disadvantage as they grow.

I know we all hear about the downside of kids using the Internet. The concerns range from less imaginative play and less outdoor time to the potential dangers that are inherent from going online. As a mom, I do want my children to be well rounded. However, I worry when I hear other parents say that they don’t let their kids watch TV, use the Internet and that they will not be allowed to get cell phone.

Let’s face it. We live in a digital age. I enjoyed playing computer games with my girls when they were little to help them learn their numbers and letters; I love that the Internet makes a wealth of information available at their fingertips and I sleep better at night knowing my older daughter has a cell phone. Here are some reasons why I love my digital kids:

Keeping in Touch

My girls use email to keep in touch with far away friends and family. They can email, chat, text and share pictures with their friends. They are improving their communication skills by writing to their friends in their emails and they use their imagination to create videos to share with each other. I do keep a close eye on their communication with their friends but I like the fact that my girls are finding new ways to stay in touch with their friends.

Knowledge is Power

Look it up is a familiar refrain at our house. When my girls ask a question that I can’t answer (which is a lot, unfortunately), I will tell them to look it up. By using the Internet to find out about their world and the people in it, I really think they are expanding their world view. My girls love look at pictures and videos of other cultures, they like finding out about new places and they love looking up recipes to try in our kitchen.  I also think that needing to look things up helps my girls to develop the ability to think critically as they learn how to navigate the search engines.

Safety Issues

As I said before, I’m a helicopter parent. I’m not proud of it and I am doing my best to overcome this affliction but the fact that my 12 year old has a cell phone certainly helps.  Because of her cell phone, I let her go to the mall, movies and walk to her friend’s house on her own. All I ask is that she texts when she gets there.  Her having a cell phone lets me breathe (a very slight) bit easier. But still.

We are living in a world where computers and technology are part of almost every job out there. It makes sense that kids today need to have the skills that will help them later on in life. I do limit my girls’ screen time and in our house there is a big difference between using the Internet for school research or for fun. But I do admit that I think it’s really important that they are learning how to access information they need and that they are learning how to communicate properly in this digital age. I also like the fact that I’m around to monitor their activities so they learn proper Internet safety. I won’t always be there so, in my opinion, the earlier they learn how to stay safe, they better.

What do you think about kids and technology?

Ali is a psychotherapist, blogger, social media enthusiast and chocoholic. She is also a Dance Mom to two awesome girls. She is the owner of Second Act Consignment Dancewear and creator  of Therapy Stew. She blogs at AliGoldfield.

Image Source: Morguefile

More video fun with Devin Super Tramp

by Karen By now, it's no secret that Lara and I are pretty enthusiastic about technology and we share the love with our kids. A couple of weeks ago, Lara showed me these videos that had recently been kid-approved by her children. They are fun to watch with catchy music and your kids will be in awe at what those crazy adults are doing!

With the nice weather we've been having recently, don't these inspire you to get outside and have an adventure!?

Have you discovered any fun videos recently you'd like to share? Tell us in the comments!

Social Media Mondays: 5 keys to parenting in a digital age

by Karen

Parents who are bringing up children right now - you, me and every other one out there - are living in a time where things change so fast that some barely even find out about one innovation before something new comes along to replace it.

So, how do we raise responsible children in this age of connectedness and sharing?

I have a few ideas:

  1. Moderation - I'm not a big fan of the word balance. I think it looks too different from one person to another, but moderation is easier to grasp. Having an active life online can be a hobby and/or a job and/or an obsession. Maintaining interests outside of the online world helps keep you grounded and prevents obsession. We need to teach our children how to use these tools in a healthy manner.
  2. Education - Parents need to learn what's happening online and know how to use the tools. It's not uncommon for parents to be uninterested but for their kids to be heavily active. That worries me. It leaves what can be (or become) a major facet of a child's life untouched by the guidance of a parent.
  3. Exposure - <rant>It bugs me that social sites have been forced by law to institute age limits - 13 and older only. As a parent, it is my job to decide what sites, when and how much my child is online.</rant> My point in that little rant is that early exposure is actually good. Let's teach children from a young age how to incorporate online tools into their lives safely and develop healthy use habits.
  4. Privacy - On this subject, I could go on and on and on. If you are typing words into a device that saves or transmits data in any way, you have no guarantee of privacy. Screen captures, hard drive recoveries, ISP data - these are just some of the places where that data can be obtained. Children need to understand that what they say on any device - connected or not - matters. Choose words wisely!
  5. Kindness - Also, empathy and compassion. It's far too easy to let loose online without regard for the person on the other end, but the point is that there is a person on the other end and words do hurt. The written word is a powerful thing. We need to teach our children that bullying, judgmental attitudes and meanness are not okay - online or off.

It blows my mind that my son will never know what it's like not to have some sort of computing device readily available in his life. I remember what those days were like. I remember going to the library to look up everything I needed to know to write a paper. The analog age was time-consuming, wasn't it? Personally, I don't have any desire to go back to that, though I understand why some do.

We need to embrace these changes that technology and the Internet have brought to our lives so that we can teach our kids to use the tools at their disposal properly.

What is your biggest concern for your children growing up during this time?


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (3), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. Most recently, she can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping business use social media more effectively.