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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Top Ways to Get the Most out of Technology as a Parent on a Budget

My kids are of the new millennium, and as such, have such an awareness of technology and how it can be used. They don't even understand the concept that when Mommy was a little kid, we didn't even have a computer at home, and then when we did, at first it was without internet, and then later it was dial up, and I certainly didn't have a smart phone, tablets, and computers with high speed internet. So this guest post on technology vis a vis kids was especially interesting for me. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Let’s set the scene. A busy mom preparing dinner, cutting and chopping as her kindergartener plays peacefully in the next room. Just then, the phone rings and Grandma wants an update on school activities and to schedule the next get-together. With the phone to her ear and a skillet in hand, Mom is juggling it all when her little one enters the kitchen, tablet extended, and asks her to approve the purchase of a new app - $9.99 for a game about letters.

She’s torn. Surely there is a benefit to encouraging learning in this way, and there is certainly a benefit to anything that keeps him occupied while she finishes cooking. But… $10? Is that really necessary for a young child’s tech use?

The simple answer is: no. There are plenty of ways to get the most out of technology for your kids without ever spending a dime.



Best Free Educational Apps
We all love the idea of our kids using technology to learn. But the price of kid’s apps can get out of control, forcing you to choose between an app for your kid or your morning coffee indulgence. Most of us would choose the app in a heartbeat if there were no other alternative, but usually you can find generic versions of the more expensive character apps. Games that have the same exact learning benefits, but are free to download.

Familyeducation.com recently compiled a list of the top free educational apps for kids. On that list were apps for toddlers, age 2 and up, including Funbrain Jr., which encourages number, letter and pattern learning through five games and engaging characters. Alien Assignment is an app for ages 3 and up and has a 5 star review from Common Sense Media for its problem solving aspects. Read Me Stories provides a new book reading experience every day for kids, and Spelling Test Free will help your children, ages 5 and up, improve upon their spelling skills.

Using Your Tech to Communicate
It used to be that distance between you and your loved ones meant a harder time maintaining connections. Not anymore, though. Now, even if you live thousands of miles away from your closest friends and family, you and your kids can still keep up with grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles and the long list of cousins – all virtually and for free. Between Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, there is no excuse for not sharing updates and photos of your most recent family adventures. But even more exciting, Facetime, Skype and other video messaging options give you the ability to talk face to face with loved ones without racking up long-distance fees. Now, you can actually see the people you love and they can see your kids growing, all for free.

Managing Your Child’s Tech Use
So much has changed in the world of tech since most of us were kids, and while there are amazing opportunities that come along with new technology, there are also a lot of hurdles to overcome. The Kaiser Foundation reported in 2010 that elementary school children were using an average of 7.5 hours per day of entertainment technology. This abundance of tech use can pull children away from experiences in the real world, the one that exists outside their screen, and it can increase the chances of Internet bullying and encounters with dangerous strangers. Most parents of children between the ages of 5 and 15-years old say they wish they knew how to better protect their children online, but they are unsure of where to even start.

Which is where OurPact comes in. Recently released by ParentsWare, OurPact is being touted as the “Best Parental Control App for iOS”. And the even better news? It is absolutely free.

With this app, you will be able to schedule your child’s internet and app use, blocking access during times when you would rather have your kids playing outside or working on homework. You can also set a daily limit on the number of hours your kids spend using their tech, block certain apps, and receive age specific technology use recommendations developed by a team of industry experts and child health care professionals.

So you see, there is no excuse. You and your kids can still benefit from all the great things technology has to offer, without having to consult the budget each time you allow them to get online.


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