Now that I have an iPad (thanks, honey!), my children have filled it with a plethora of apps that meet their needs and wants. I’ve seen my share of great ones and I’ve suffered through some that weren’t even worth the FREE price tag.
Lately, I’ve been considering creating a website that rates and recommends iOS apps for kids based on reviews by children. I know that my own children have become pretty good judges of what is worth $1 or two and what isn’t. For example, my children (and the daycare kids that fill my house every weekday and inevitably get their hands on an iPad) love the games made by Toca Boca. These apps run about $2 each, but they are well worth it. They are exploratory with lots of open-ended choices and creative opportunities and none of that harsh competitiveness or intense consequences that “level” based games have. Toca Boca hasn’t paid me anything for this review, but I’ve probably sent a small fortune their way and it has been worth it.
On the other end of the spectrum, I recently encountered one of the most hideous apps marketed at children. My daughter, who enjoys the “maker” class of apps that allow her to make virtual brownies, milkshakes, and other digital foods, saw an ad for “My School Dance”. It was free (“freemium” to be exact), and looked harmless enough. Then, I helped to read a few of the screens. I was blown away by the message presented.
As the female character in this virtual high school, she was prompted to initiate a chat with a boy. When she attempted to open the chat, the screen below appeared:
I don’t think I need to explain my horror.
As a free market guy, I get that ads are a necessary evil in order to keep applications inexpensive. I understand the value of a diverse App Store that has something for everyone, even if Apple’s curation policies already keep out a lot of the junk that can be found in Android alternatives. The real message for me is that I need to be a better parent and keep a closer eye on what my kids are seeing and doing on our devices.
What is your take-home message from this?