How do you know if the latest “must-have” in social media is a good app for kids? What about good video games for kids–how do you figure out which ones are okay? Although the potential for problems varies by app or game, here are some guidelines on how to choose the right apps and games for your child or teen.
Start with Reviews
Go to Common Sense Media
and read the reviews by experts, parents and kids. You’ll get an age range that it’s appropriate for and based on the specifics, you’ll get a sense of how the app or game will mesh with your family values.
Explore the Game or App Alone
Download it on your device and notice what the default setting are. Explore the following:
- Restricted mode
- “Friends only” mode
- Parental controls
- Location tracking and reporting
- Data collection
- “Disappearing” content
Can you change these settings?
What type of content are you seeing? Can you search for porn, self-harm or other inappropriate content?
Explore the Game or App Together
If the game or app feels like a “yes” or “maybe”, sit with your child and explore together. Ask your child what’s cool about the game or app. Talk about how the game or app can be used to uplift your family values (or not). Be open.
Decide to Start with ONE
Only one game or app can be on trial at a time. Your child needs to prioritize their requests.
Agree on the Rules and Write them Down
- Only play with or follow people you know (with exceptions for some sports figures, celebrities, etc).
- Don’t respond to messages from strangers
- Keep your language, tone and actions respectful
- Enforce time limits and start small
- Accounts stay private (but still have the conversation that NOTHING is truly private in the age of screen shotting and downloading)
- Other responsibilities need to be done first (homework, chores…)
- Follow your child’s account (which means YOU need to set up an account)
- Keep their log in info and Log into their account
- Use parental controls to block additional game or app downloads by your child
- Monitor their account with BARK
Most importantly: Choose LOVE
The most important idea you need to convey is that if and when your child makes a mistake or runs into a situation that is confusing, shameful or embarrassing, you will help them handle it. Let them know, again and again, that there’s nothing they could ever do that would make you stop loving them.
Renegotiate as Needed
Sometimes you say “yes” based on what you know at the time, then find out the game or app is not working for your family. Maybe they’re obsessed with the game. Maybe they’re wandering into groups that aren’t good for them.
Your kids need to know that your #1 job is to protect them and keep them safe. If you discover new information, you reserve the right to change your mind. Also, as your kids get older, you’ll need to to relax the control so that they’re able to continue exploring at home with your guidelines.