I come from California where the progressive hippy intercepts with the technology entrepreneur. Where 30 minutes from my house are the Apple Computer, Facebook and Google headquarters. And yet I have never seen more children using iPads and smart phones than while being an expat here in Malaysia. Maybe it comes with the territory. You have a long plane flight – hand the kids their iPads. Taking a road trip – don’t forget the iPad or the car movie. And downtime after homework? Kids want screen time!
Like many parents, I struggle to keep their “screen time” to a minimum and make sure that when my kids do watch/play, they explore content that will grow their brain, not melt it on aimless game play. And now that they are independently surfing the internet, I worry that they don’t accidentally land on sites with “inappropriate” material.
SmartFeed: a new app to help parents and kids
Luckily for us, there is a new online website/app called SmartFeed. Its goal is to let parents find the “good stuff” that’s out there and helps shape kids in a positive way. Like Common Sense Media, the site provides feedback on family media. But unlike Common Sense Media, with SmartFeed, you get personalised recommendations based on customised profiles you create. In other words, you don’t need to know a title to locate healthy media for your family. It gets served to you! Conceived by a California mom of three, SmartFeed makes it easy for parents to help manage what the kids watch, play, read, etc.
Using SmartFeed with my daughter
My 10-year-old daughter likes making her own media choices. Understood. But recently I found her searching for “quizzes” and getting quizzes about her “relationship style” or wanting information on animated films and finding films that content is meant for adults. So I told her that I prefer she set up a profile with SmartFeed and find new media from their recommendations.
We found the site really easy to use. The first thing we noticed was we could select ready-made lists from experts or we could create a profile and have customised suggestions made based on personal interests. She wanted personalised choices made for her. She used the simple check box interface to indicate the content she wanted and I chose how much violence and I was comfortable with. Dancing – yes. Animals – absolutely. Environment/Oceans – please.
We then pressed “Save” and got a list of movies, books, tv shows, and apps she could choose from. She was thrilled. I was quite smitten. She liked how she could easily change her interest criteria whenever she wanted, and I liked that she was looking at vetted material.
As I worked with SmartFeed, I was hoping that this viewing and choosing would take place within a sheltered environment, with controls that would turn off media after an agreed amount of time. The product currently does not provide these kinds of options. I understand, however, that the company might partner with others to deliver those options. But for now, you have to exit the site to download your apps, movies etc.
Still I think it’s a great service. And best of all, it’s free!
Other quick facts about the service:
- Its’ free services for parents live both as a website and App – the SmartFeed website and the SmartFeed IOS App.
- As your time allows, you can put a profile together for each of your children. It’s not one size fits all.
- It helps parents find media that reinforces character traits (Positive Mindset Media) and specific educational content or skills (with apps such as Stack the Countries, Numbers League, Cut The Rope).
- It puts together expert playlists with popular topics (for education and entertainment) to help more parents like us, find more content they’ll love for the kids and their kids will love them for “allowing”.
Apps that reinforce education or positive character traits
Here are a few of their favorite positive or educational apps when you need 30 minutes. These titles are recommended for children 2-10 years old as indicated:
Count the Animals (age 2-5)
The concept of this app is simple: tap on a series of pictures to count an object in each scene. As you tap, the app counts along. Beautifully designed, with a wry sense of humor and 21 languages.
Sago Mini Friends (age 2-5)
The Sago Mini apps are adorable and universally excellent, especially for the youngest users. Basic skills like using numbers and sorting, and positive character traits like kindness and sharing are reinforced in an irresistible, fun context.
Endless Wordplay (age 4-7)
This award-winning app features a variety of early reading skills taught through an engaging interface. Interactive spelling, rhyming and other phonics activities are presented clearly and thoughtfully. The app is full of cute robots, other critters and fun settings. A way to learn!
Pickle’s Paper Dolls (age 4+)
Travel around the world and design and dress friends from different countries! Learn new words in French, Spanish, Chinese, and more. Better than many of the dress up apps out there, with kid-centric dolls, clothes and accessories, and including a multicultural, world-centric point of view. Simple to play, adorable, and fun.
Every so often an app comes along that makes almost perfect use of the capabilities of a smart phone or tablet– Loopimal is one of those apps. Creativity is sparked as users explore endless combinations of rhythm and music patterns, ending in delightful and whimsical results. Create, compose, modify and play!
Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System (age 6-9)
Beautifully designed and chock-full of information, this app is a great option for those who are curious about space, planets, the sun, and the universe. Information is colorfully and clearly presented, and interactive and creative elements make for fun (and funny!) learning time.
Monument Valley (age 7+)
It’s a story. It’s a puzzle. It’s a mysterious, mind-bending logic game. It also happens to be incredibly beautiful, with stunning art and atmospheric music. It’s a great choice for logic and puzzle-oriented kids and adults to play together.