Safe ways for kids to connect

A podcast to inspire better teeth-cleaning?

A messenger app that’s fun AND safe?

A fairy-tale themed game that teaches kids logical problem-solving?

With all the alarming news about risky apps and games for children, it’s easy to forget the good stuff out there. And there’s so much of it.

Today, we take a look at three outstanding options you might like to consider for positive screen-time with your pre-school-to-primary child.


Chompers: a podcast for kids from Gimlet Media

The tagline for this clever, twice-daily podcast - “Make Tooth Time Easy” - could refer equally to kids and to parents. The whole point of Chompers is to lure kids to clean their teeth properly and without fuss by entertaining them stories, jokes and snack-sized dental hygiene tips. It’s only four minutes long, but can save parents hours of grief - and possibly a small fortune in dental bills down the track.

Recent Chompers episodes have featured topics like “What animal eats its own poop? Snakes, rabbits or pigeons?” and “Pickles, soy sauce, olives - what do these things have in common?” (The answer, by the way, is bacteria.) Unsavoury images to rinse and spit to? Not if you’re a kid in Chompers’ prime target years of 3-7.

chompersPodcasts for kids can be an attractive alternative to more screen-time.

The podcast was inspired by the real-life parenting struggles of dad-of-two and Gimlet Media co-founder Matt Lieber. Now Lieber’s kids - Lilly, 5, and 7-year-old Max - no longer need to be frog-marched to the bathroom basin each night - and they’re not the only ones. The podcast has been downloaded more than a million times.

Podcasts for children are the next big thing, say audio watchers. Parents and educators are on board because they see podcasts as a way of engaging kids without screens. Podcasts also appear to encourage positive action as opposed to passive absorption. A recent survey conducted by Kids Listen, which advocates for children’s audio, found that, after listening to a podcast, three-quarters of youngsters took an action - whether initiating a conversation, researching a topic further … or brushing their molars.

Developer’s Age Rating: 3+

Cost: Free

Get it: on the App Store or Google Play

Monster Messenger: a messaging app for age 4+ that’s fun AND safe

  • You’re a parent who cares about cyber safety, but you still want to be able to connect your child - and allow other family members to do the same.

  • Your child is too young for a smartphone or texting, but not too young to video-chat safely with contacts you approve.

  • Your child has a wonderful imagination, and loves to create online and off.

If any of that sounds like you, Monster Messenger may just be the answer you’ve been looking for.

 

monster messenger

Finally! A safer messenger for kids 

Conversations on Monster Messenger are private - parents must approve every contact invitation their child makes, and will be notified of any new contacts. That means it is extremely difficult for kids to talk to strangers. (Warning: if your child has a mutual contact with a new person, they will be flagged as “trusted” and allowed to connect straightaway.) And if on the off-chance your child is being bullied or harassed, parents can easily block and report that contact.

Plus, this is an app packed with heaps of fun, with hundreds of colourful stickers to choose from and an easy-to-use drawing feature.

Child-friendly messaging apps haven’t always had a good run. Facebook’s foray into the instant messaging space for kids last year was a major flop, with some commentators observing “It’s like Coca-Cola inventing a kids’ soda product.” The app had plenty of parental controls - but also some seriously adult features. Add to that concerns about privacy and screen-time, and many parents decided to give Messenger Kids a big miss.

Monster Messenger is a great alternative that lives up to its tagline, “The safe way to keep in touch with your kids.”

Developer’s Age Rating: 4+

Cost: Free

Get it: on the App Store or Google Play

Thinkrolls: Kings and Queens - using fairy tales to teach scientific thinking? It’s a thing!

Kids love dragons and castles, potions and ghosts, enchanted harps and sleepy crocodiles. They don’t necessarily love logical problem-solving. Here’s a story-focused, interactive puzzle app that uses one to promote the other. Now that’s pretty magical.

This award-winning game gives kids the option to design their own character, and more accessories are added with each scene. The game is divided into chapters, and kids need to solve puzzles of increasing difficulty to move ahead with the story - collecting lollies and jewels along with way, to unlock more costuming options to customise their characters.

thinkrollsTeaching perseverance and problem-solving with ... dragons?

Kids don’t need to be able to read to play, but the challenges do require thinking ahead. There’s no help available, but there’s also no penalty for “wrong” answers - and the game encourages kids to keep trying til they figure each puzzle out. That makes it an outstanding way to encourage problem-solving and perseverance.

Here’s another cool feature: Up to six players can track their progress on the same device, with challenges customised for difficulty. And for the youngest players - we love this feature - you can even clear the castle of spooky spiders and bats!

Developer’s Age Rating: 4+

Cost: $5.99

Get it: on the App Store or Google Play



It’s not easy staying up to date with the latest online risks - or for the matter the latest opportunities. Family Zone can help. We're not only Australia’s leading cyber-safety provider. In consultation with our dedicated team of cyber experts, we’re also a leading force in educating and advising digital parents. Learn more at familyzone.com.







Topics: online gaming, podcasts, instant messenger

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