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A Parent's Guide to Using the App Store - Kids App Review

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A Parent’s Guide to Using the App Store

Over the course of the last year, in dealing with the ongoing pandemic, you’re not alone if you’ve let your kids have a little more screentime than normal.

The good news is that studies show that children can actually learn just as well from interactive technology (like apps) as they can from in-person teaching. Of course, in order to do so, they need to be using helpful games and apps that are meant for learning.

If you’re feeling lost on how to navigate the app store to find the best options for your kids, we’re here to help.

Read through our parent’s guide to app stores to get a better understanding of how to choose the best apps for your children.

Choosing the Best Apps for Your Kids

Let’s start by talking about the fun part of the app store: Choosing the best apps available for your kids!

When searching through the different app stores, you’ll quickly see that certain apps are promoted as the best available options. However, that might not necessarily be the case.

Apple and Google promote apps that are editorially selected, so they may not be an accurate representation of what your child should use.

Similarly, “popular” apps are ranked by the number of people who have installed or downloaded the app, not how good the apps actually are. Instead of only searching for popular apps, try searching by the following categories:

  • Education: focuses on learning through play
  • Entertainment: offers fun games without a focus on learning
  • Age: choose between All Kids, Ages 5 and Under, Ages 6-8, and Ages 9-11

While it’s ok to use the app stores for suggestions, it’s important to do your own outside research as well. We recommend taking a look at a curated selection of kids’ apps, like our Editors Choice list for a trusted review of the apps that can most benefit your kids.

Sharing Apps Among Family Members

Once you’ve found some tried and true apps that you love, you’ll likely want to share them with other members of the family. This is especially true if each family member has their own separate account.

Both Apple and Google allow you to do so.

Apple Family Sharing

Apple allows you to share apps with a maximum of six family members. As the family organizer, you’ll see any time someone downloads an app. From there, you can review the purchase and decide whether to share the purchase with other family members.

Google Play Family Library

Google also allows you to share apps between family members. However, they limit sharing to up to only five people. Set up your Google Play Family Library to start sharing instantly.

Managing the Content Your Kids See

When you give your child access to a smartphone or tablet, it’s natural to be nervous that they’ll stumble upon content that’s not age-appropriate.

So, what’s a good way to prevent this? Before you or your child download an app, make sure it has a comprehensive privacy policy that includes child-friendly data collection practices.

Ideally, most age-appropriate apps should mention COPPA/GDPR-K compliance, which offers special protection for the personal data of children under the age of 13.

Fortunately, both Google and Apple have protocols in place to make it easier for you to limit the types of content your children can download.

Apple App Store

On any Apple device, you can set restrictions that allow you to limit what your kids can see. For example, you can limit content based on its age rating.

So, if an app is recommended for ages 17 and up, you can restrict those apps from ever showing up for your children.

Google Play Store

Google also makes it easy for you to restrict the content that your kids can access. In their parental controls settings, you can block your children from downloading certain content based on age rating, similar to Apple.

Google also goes a step further, helping you identify kid-approved content. In the Google Play Store, you can filter by kids apps that have been given a “Teacher Approved” badge. You can also filter by family-friendly books, movies, and TV shows.

Preventing Unwanted Downloads or Purchases

For kids these days, using smartphones and tablets is second nature. While this is great for their learning skills, it’s not as great for your wallet if they figure out how to purchase apps and add-ons by themselves.

Again, both Google and Apple have safeguards in place to help prevent your kids from buying everything they see.

Apple App Store

Most games offer attractive in-app purchases that especially appeal to younger kids. In many cases, children don’t even realize that these add-ons require real money vs in-game “currency.”

Apple allows you to update your password settings so that a password is required to make an in-app purchase. By default, any extra purchases made within 15 minutes of entering the password won’t require you to enter it again.

However, you can change that setting so that a password is required on every purchase.

The best way to make sure your kids don’t make any unauthorized purchases is to not share your passwords. So, anything they want to buy has to go through you first.

Google Play Store

You can also prevent accidental purchases in the Google Play Store by setting up passcodes for in-app purchases.

As an extra layer of protection, Google automatically requires a password on any in-app purchases made from apps in the Kids section of the store, even if you don’t have passcode settings enabled.

An App Store Can Be a Powerful Tool for Your Kids

When looking for new ways to help your child learn and develop, the app store can be a powerful tool in your toolbelt.

Now that you know more about how to use the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, it’s time to fill your child’s device with high-quality apps you can trust.

Browse through our favorite kids’ apps today!