Is That App OK for My Kids?
With today's children getting their first smartphone at an average of 10, parents need to be more vigilant than ever. As an RDN, you might be asked for recommendations for a child looking to learn about nutrition through an app, game or website. Before that happens, do a little research.
In her eatright.org article "6 Great Apps to Teach Kids about Nutrition," Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, writes: "With a plethora of apps on the market, finding the best ones can be daunting. Here are a few to start." If you're looking for even more options for nutrition apps and games, the USDA's SNAP-ed Connection offers recommendations of apps and web games for kids. Or, read tips about online safety from the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, a nonprofit that provides new media safety education.
4 Questions to Ask Before Recommending Any App for Kids
Before downloading any app or game, however — even those recommended in the resources above — think for yourself. Consider these four questions before making any technology decisions when it comes to kids.
- Are there online reviews you can read? Reviews can help you get a sense of the pros and cons from different perspectives. I like to read children's technology reviews at Common Sense Media, because they use specific criteria — educational value, positive messages, violence and more — in their reviews, and users also provide feedback.
- Does the app ask for the child's personal information? If the app asks for the location of the child, you might want to ask why this is necessary and consider turning off the device’s location services.
- Does the app include a chat option (if yes, is it monitored)?
- Does the app include advertising or banner ads? Clicking on ads can sometimes infect a device with a virus or malware. It is best to recommend commercial-free apps or games, though those may be difficult to find. Also consider the child's age when advertising is involved — a younger child might not know the difference between ads and content.
Ellen Schuster, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian with an interest in nutrition education and technology. She has been in practice for more than 30 years. Follow her on Facebook.