Originally published on December 24, 2013
It’s not that I have anything against either Android or Windows 8, but the hard truth is that there simply isn’t enough good software targeting children on either platform yet.
That’s not to say that there isn’t anything, but developers go where they money is and in very specific markets like photography and software for kids, they went for iOS early and hard.
So while the competition catches up, let’s have a conversation about setting up an iPad to be used by a child.
There are four things you need to consider before putting such powerful technology before an impressionable mind; security, software, protection and monitoring.
Setting up security makes an iPad just a little more troublesome for an adult to use and will require you to be fully aware of your password, but it will also prevent adventurous little fingers from deleting software or running up your credit card bill with either deliberate or accidental in-app purchases.
You are likely to be surprised at how easily a young mind associates a colourful button with more goodies and how cleverly some software programmers facilitate such transactions.
Most apps will require a password before a purchase, but some free apps depend on parental carelessness to boost income as young fingers seek more interesting things to do within a game they enjoy. Needless to say, a child shouldn’t know your password.
Nicole Phillip Greene, author of the WhendidIbecomemyMom.com website and Mom’s The Word app suggests that parental protection levels be set high, blocking access to software such as browsers that may lead to places you’d prefer a child doesn’t visit.
“Get your children in the habit of alerting you when they experience anything unusual while using the device,” Greene suggests.
“Make sure that they understand that there’s a relationship between what’s on the screen and the real world.”
It’s probably also a good idea to give over the iPad’s home screen, the easiest place for a child to access and the default when the only button on the face of the device is pressed, to the apps the child uses most often. You can easily swipe a little deeper in to get to your stuff, and you’ll be sending a clear message that grown-up apps aren’t for your child to play with.
The software you choose depends on the experience you want a child to have while using the iPad. You’ll find software to coach or entertain a child on almost any subject or topic, from brushing teeth and potty training to Disney clips.
Where there are free versions of a paid app, try that first to get a feel for how it works. Similar apps covering the same topic often have wildly different approaches and you may prefer one over another because of how you want to personally coach the child.
An iPad is tough, but it’s no match for the robustly destructive capacity of a young child. An iPad that’s going to be in child’s hands regularly should be protected physically as well, which means giving up the sleek lines of the tablet for improved durability.
The NewerTech NuGard KX is probably the best compromise between good looks and protection. It’s thinner than most protective cases for the iPad but sandwiches a shock absorbing gel between its outer and inner case linings.
Otterbox cases are borderline hideous, but have a good reputation for handling sudden trips to the floor.
The final point to bear in mind when you allow a child to use your iPad is that it isn’t a warm bottle of milk. You need to monitor the child’s use of the device in the same way that you look in on what they are watching on television.
Children have a lot of time to click and press, and the iPad encourages that type of interaction, which can sometimes take them to surprising places.
“Make sure that children know you have total access to the device,” Nicole Phillip Greene suggests.
That will not only establish authority; it will also let a child know that you will know what they have been doing. Then be attentive to what they get up to.