Mobile Health Apps for Kids: Schoolhouse Rock for the 21st Century

If you spend any time with children you know how easy it is for them to adapt to new technology. Have you noticed toddlers trying to swipe the TV screen? How about asking you to “pause” a conversation? It’s no wonder that parents are turning to mobile devices to help supplement educational needs. Just as Sesame Street helped Generation X learn the alphabet and numbers, now Sesame Street apps are helping kids today .

Mobile technology for children’s physical and psychological health is also flourishing in interesting ways. Using games and interactivity, apps help kids remember to brush their teeth, learn about nutrition, and name complicated emotions . At T2, we just celebrated the one-year anniversary of MilitaryKidsConnect.org, our website that promotes resilience for all the amazing children in military families. We’re looking forward to making some of the components of the site available for download as mobile apps. As such, we’ve been putting a lot of thought into what makes a good mHealth app for kids.

Like any online or mobile resource, caregivers need to be cautious about what kids are using. Here are a few tips for getting the most from children’s mobile health apps:

While shopping in the app market (e.g., iTunes, Google Play, Amazon):

  • Check who made the app and consider visiting the developer’s website. Of course, I’m partial to government and university-sponsored apps because they are most likely evidence-based and won’t try to sell you stuff.
  • Check to see if the app allows in-app purchases . Ideally there will be none. If you see anything listed here, then it means that your kids will soon be pestering you to purchase extras to help the app run.

Once you’ve downloaded a new app:

  • Play with the app before you give it to your children. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to download a few apps and forget they are there before your kids get hold of your device. Check to make sure the app content is age-appropriate and consistent with your family’s values.
  • Click on the Settings button and make sure everything there is kosher. Some apps allow you to turn on or off in-app purchases (turn them off!), or adjust the difficulty level of the games.

What other tips do you have for folks using mHealth apps for kids?

Julie T. Kinn, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and the Deputy Director of the Mobile Health Program at theNational Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2). She oversees the development of mobile health applications to support the military community.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

 

Read other posts by Dr. Julie Kinn