A mum’s guide to choosing the best mobile app for your child


ios Appstore iconBefore I set my mind on making Safari Tales a mobile application, I did  a lot of research on the following:-

a. All Children apps in the Google Play store  and apple stores for the Android based and ios based Smart phones and Tablets respectively.
b. Apps targeted at kids between the ages of 2-9 years
c. Apps focused on teaching a language
d. Apps using games to teach
d. Story telling apps
e. Any existing African themed or African based apps for the same age group

It is from over 2 years of research that I accumulated a huge collection of Android based kids apps. Getting an apple smartphone has been an investment I haven’t been able to make (this is one of the main reasons that led me to concentrate on building an app for the android market first before ios – if I can’t easily afford one, how many Kenyans/Africans can)

Here are some guidelines on what to look out for when choosing/downloading an app for your child

GooglePlayicon1. DO NOT download an app that comes with ‘in-app advertising’ .
This is where advertisement appears as the child is reading that story or plays that game either at the top of the screen or below or pop up screen. Most of the advertisement is usually for adult content and some can either be vulgar, or cause the child to download malware or worse still, attract a charge(if you have synchronised your credit card details with your gmail or apple account). None of it is usually releavant to your child.

2. If an app is free, get one that uses a ‘freemium model’
Most apps will get their revenue from the following sources
– Advertising(refer to first guideline)
– Paid for app (you have to pay first in order to download the app – This is mostly with apple store apps)
– Freemium model. This is the best model and apps using this are the best to get. Usually, the app is free to download and it comes with some free content. Any additional content or higher levels of a game attract a fee. Most will indicate which content is free and which one is ‘premium‘ hence the term ‘freemium

3. Be weary of what other sections of your phone/tablet the app will have access to
When you are downloading an app, there is usually a prompt, just before the download starts, where you are alerted to what the app will have access to. e.g GPS, internet connection, SD-Card, phone call logs etc however, be careful of apps that want your exact GPS cordinates or your browser history and other private information unless its a direction/geo-based app.
A child’s app has no business knowing where you are at that exact moment.
Be very careful with your privacy as well as your child’s by using apps that don’t expose you to  a lot of surveillance.

4. For English basic learning, look for apps that use the ECD (Early Childhood Development) guidelines especially in helping a child learn the alphabet using phonetics (the Aa Ba Ca Da)
You do not want the teacher complaining that your child is having a hard time learning the alphabet due to conflict in learning methods.

5. Read the good and bad reviews given by previous users before downloading an app.
In the Google Play store, a lot of app users leave comments which are then ranked with a star rating of between 1 and 5. Its always important to see how other parents have ranked the app based on very many factors, some of which, you might not be aware of.

6. Be weary of internet connection/bundle hogs
There are some apps that are just not meant for the African market with our internet speed challenges. Most kids apps size ranges from 5MB to 40MB (Talking tom). 40MB is quite huge if you are using data bundles. However, if you are at a wifi hotspot, then the only thing you should worry about is how much space you have on your SD Card or phone memory as there are some apps that can only run from the phone memory.

7. Get an app that does not require you to be online to use it
There are some apps that can make you  a mobile operator’s best customer due to your data bundle purchase.
Any app which you can’t download the content onto the SD card and run it ‘offline’ is a very dangerous one especially with such high internet costs in this part of the world.
However, if you have unlimited internet in your house, this shouldn’t be a problem.

8. Don’t download an app that requires you to sign up first for your to use it
This is very a bad business strategy which is mostly used by companies that do data-mining (they collect information about you – email address and sell it to advertising companies that will spam your mailbox)

9. Install a good antivirus 
Nowadays, virus makers have gone into the smartphone business as that’s where the numbers are. Ensure that you have a good antivirus such as lookout, AVG, or Avast. Some, like lookout, will scan the app immediately its downloaded and warn you if the app has malicious hidden code that will do more than it claims.

Credit cards10. If you have to use your credit/debit card, disable online purchase until after authorisation.
5 days ago, Apple was ordered to refund at least $32.5 million to consumers to settle a federal case involving purchases that kids made without their parents’ permission while playing on mobile apps.
The Federal Trade Commission said Apple will make full refunds for any such in-app purchases made by kids while playing on mobile phones and other devices, and incurring charges without parents’ knowledge or permission. The commission said it had received tens of thousands of complaints about unauthorized charges.
This happened because, in the west, unlike in most African countries, most users include their credit card information into their itunes/appstore accounts thus one is not required to ok a payment within an app as the credit card information is already there.
To avoid this, its best to ensure that you instruct your bank not to honor any online purchases until you have authorised it.
This whole in-app purchasing has become a really big deal especially in the US and UK. Unfortunately, its mostly happening with children apps that are in the apple store. This is not to say that android users are not prone to this.

I hope this guide will help you in getting some really nice apps that are out there for your child.

PS. You ought to limit the time your child spends on devices as you do with TV. Let the child go out and play like normal kids!!

Look out for my recommendation list for apps to download for your child in the next post.

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  1. Pingback: Locally developed Mobile applications & Solutions for your child | AfroMum

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