I feel this way about almost everything infant/kid related these days. Need to buy a stroller? How do you decide when there are new top stroller lists coming out ever week that range from $25 to $1000! Need a new car seat? Good luck! There are options for infants, toddles, preschoolers, elementary schoolers and then there are the “convertibles” car seats that can grow with your child, so you don’t have to buy a new one ever year. What about children’s books? We all have been taught not to “judge a book by its cover” so then how are we supposed to decide what books to get from the library- or an even more costly of a decision-from the store (don’t get me started on the question of whether we should buy e-books or traditional books for children!). Diapers? Its not just cloth diapers or not but what brand do you buy for either cloth or disposable? The “so many choices, how to decide?” is an overwhelming issue for parents related to just about everything!
Likely there will be a post about each of this topics listed above in the future, but today I’m going to focus on children’s media. Again, “So many choices, how to decide?!” Here we have the problem of platform. First, you have to decide whether your child is going to use a TV, DVD, book, movie at the movie theater, computer, touchscreen tablet (e.g., iPad), smartphone, etc. That’s just decision number one. Lets say you have made that decision. Say you just got a new ipad and you want to download a few good apps for your child. How in the world do you pick? Well here are some things to think about first:
1. Child. How old is your child (think both about age and general developmental ability). Is your child 2 but extremely verbal and speaking at an older level? Is your child 6 but struggling with reading and numbers? These are all things to think about before searching for an app.
2. Content. What type of content are you looking for? Are you looking for a game that will help your child practice literacy skills? Addition and subtraction? Social skills? Are you looking for something that your child will be engaged in and willing/wanting to play for hours or something that he can play for 10 minutes and then put away and do another activity?
3. Context. Where will your child be using this app? In the car on a long trip? With a teacher at school? With dad while dinner is being prepared? With a younger sister in the living room? Or maybe playing virtually against a grandparent in a different state. All of these contexts influence how your child will be using and engaging with this app.
(See ScreenTime by Lisa Guernesy and her article in Huffington Post: Screen Time, Young Kids and Literacy: New Data Begs Questions)
Ok, now that you have thought about these difficult questions. How do you decide what app(s) to download for your child?
1. You can search the appstore (or playstore) depending on your device and see what are listed as popular according to the store.
2. You can download a bunch of free apps and then play them to determine which one is best for your child, given the content you want to learn, and the context the child will be engaging with the app.
3. You can ask other parents, read reviews, or check blogs that rate apps.
4. You could look for a company that you like and trust and see if they have created an app and try that one.
All of these are valid options for selecting an app for your child, but here is another one that many parents might not know about. Common Sense Media provides in depth reviews of media (all types of media!) on their website-which can be a great first stop when searching for children’s media. Common Sense Media allows parents to search through their database of reviews based on their child’s age, the type of content (app, movies, videogames, etc) or by topic (e.g., internet safety, physical health, etc). This is a great first stop when trying to answer the never-ending question of “so many choices, how to decide?!”