commentary In my more than 15 years in the Internet safety field, I've seen a lot of programs designed to teach children how to use the Internet safely, but many have missed the mark because they too often focus on children as victims or at least passive consumers rather than as participants in our digital culture. But in this Web 2.0 world, kids aren't just consuming media, they're creating it and they have collectively embraced social media as a part of their lives. They don't go online; they are online--whether on a PC, a mobile … Read more
You know what they say about parenting: It's the hardest job you'll ever love. Of course, you might love it a little more if it weren't so flippin' hard all the time. So let's hear it for all the iPhone apps designed to make parents' lives a little easier.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of such apps in the Store, but I've rounded up five that I consider essential--starting with one that can make injuries and illnesses a little less scary (for you, anyway):
1. Kid Care Your toddler is running a fever of 103. Should you call your pediatrician? Head for the hospital? Wait it out? Kid Care offers medical advice for dozens of common symptoms--everything from bee stings to headaches to wheezing. Based on proven clinical protocols, the app provides symptom definitions and images, care advice, medicine dosage information, and helpful reading material such as "Fever--Myth Vs. Facts." There's also a handy dial-your-doctor button and a location-aware emergency-services finder. My only wish is that I'd had this incredible app at my fingertips when my kids were younger. Amazingly, it's free.
2. Tales2Go A new favorite in our house--make that our car--Tales2Go streams on-demand audiobooks for kids. The collection now exceeds 1,000 titles, including such well-known series as "American Girl," "The Boxcar Children," "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," and "Junie B. Jones." The app is free, as is a 30-day trial of the service. After that, you pay $24.99 for a year of unlimited listening. As someone who's spent that much on a single audiobook CD, I consider that the bargain of the century.… Read more
It's a good time to be a Dr. Seuss fan--and an iPhone or iPod Touch owner. Hot on the heels of last year's criminally overlooked "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and thoroughly entertaining Dr. Seuss Camera, Grinch Edition, Oceanhouse Media just dropped three new Seuss apps, starting with a spectacular e-book edition of "The Cat in the Hat."
Like "Grinch" before it, this book is animated, narrated, and interactive. Children can choose either "Read to Me" or "Read It Myself" mode, both of which produce the original book's artwork and text--but with a little panning and zooming to lend an animated feel.
"The Cat in the Hat" is not only a great diversion for bored children (and their harried parents), but also a learning tool. In "Read to Me" mode, each word gets highlighted as it's read. When the narration finishes, readers can tap different areas of the accompanying picture to hear the corresponding word spoken and see it "zoom up."… Read more
Hey, fellow parents. Sick to death of the kids' "Wiggles" CDs? Exhausted the library's "Magic Tree House" collection? Do I have an app for you: Tales2Go provides on-demand access to nearly 900 children's stories. It's my single favorite app of 2010 (so far).
The Tales2Go collection includes works from a variety of audio publishers, including Audio Bookshelf and Recorded Books. A Tales2Go representative told me a couple "major" new publishers will collectively add about 80 more titles to the library in coming weeks.
The app provides countless ways to peruse the … Read more
Like Douglas Rushkoff, I've been an enthusiastic supporter of digital technology for more than 20 years and, also like Rushkoff, I've had some second thoughts as to whether--at least for some people--immersion in technology is doing more harm than good.
Rushkoff is the co-host and co-writer of TV movie "Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier," which premiers on PBS Frontline Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. The show was produced, co-written and co-hosted by Rachel Dretzin, who also produced "Growing Up Online," a show that aired on Frontline in 2007.
The new program … Read more
A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows a "dramatic" rise in the amount of time children and teens spend using entertainment media, "especially among minority youth." The study, "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-year-olds," only focused on recreational use of media, not homework, school-related online research, or reading books for school.
The report, which was released Wednesday, showed that 8- to 18-year-olds "devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day." That adds up to more than 53 … Read more
Taser International, the company that makes Taser guns to help law enforcement subdue unruly suspects, now has a product aimed at children. At CES, the company announced the Protector Family Safety Program--a series of products designed to help parents monitor and control what their kids are doing with their phones.
Lets parents listen in Protector goes further than most parental control products in that it doesn't just provide a summary of activity--such as the incoming and outgoing numbers of people the kids call or text--but allows parents to listen to actual calls and read text messages.
Depending on … Read more
Somewhere, Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) is smiling. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" for iPhone turns the classic tale into a superb interactive e-book, one that's as much a learning tool as it is an entertaining diversion.
With all the fuss over Kindles, Nooks, and other e-book readers, I've often wondered why there's been so little focus on children's books--arguably the ideal media for a portable device.
After all, what parent hasn't wished for something wholesome to keep young kids occupied during car rides, long waits in a restaurant, endless hours on a … Read more
As MP3 players become more popular, the age at which a child is introduced to them continually decreases. And finding appropriate headphones for youngsters presents a few unique challenges.
First and foremost, any responsible parent wants to ensure that any sounds being piped into their little ones' ears are coming through at safe listening levels. While it's important to consider music volume and hearing protection at any age, kids' ears are more sensitive the younger they are, which is why it's important that their headphones employ a volume limiting feature. And then there is the lesser--but still important--issue … Read more
In the classic Simpsons episode "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", Homer's long-lost brother Herb invents a baby translator. The baby cries, the machine announces its meaning (in Danny DeVito's inimitable voice) in plain English.
Seventeen years later, there's an app for that. Cry Translator promises to identify the "five distinct cries" made by infants.
In other words, you no longer have to wonder if your ankle-biter is tired, hungry, mad, stressed, or just bored. It's like Stanza for crybabies.
My first reaction: That's cheating! My second reaction: Why wasn't … Read more