Celebrate Earth Day with these 5 Apps

earthHappy Earth Day! Today, April 22, is Earth Day’s 45th anniversary. For 45 years, people have come together to help our planet by supporting environmental programs, cleaning up their neighborhoods or living a more sustainable lifestyle. This year, I have 5 earth-friendly apps to celebrate Earth Day. Download these apps today to discover how to transform a water bottle into a piece of art, learn more about the environment or make healthier food choices.


recyclecreateRecycle and Create.

If you have a creative kid at home, they may want to try  Recycle and Create. This app’s purpose is to encourage people to reuse and recycle materials by making them into decorative and everyday objects. The app is simple. It is full of videos with step-by-step instructions on how to turn plastic water bottles into garden art or transform an old pair of jeans into a bag. Spend this Earth Day changing trash to treasurers.

geoquizGeoQuiz

Not crafty. Test your knowledge of our planet by taking the GeoQuiz challenge. Players can choose from 11 different categories ranging from “Countries and Flags” to “Food.” Each round is 20 questions and the scores are based on the number of correct answers and speed. If you have Trivia Crack addicts in your house, this app is fun alternative for Earth Day.

blue planetBlue Planet

The object of this family friendly game is to clean up the ocean. Players tilt their device to maneuver through the ocean and suck up trash, oil spills and other hazards while protecting the ecosystem. Each level adds another challenge. Blue Planet is a fun game for even the littlest family members.

wwfWWF Together

WWF Together, from the World Wildlife Fund, is a beautiful app. The pictures are gorgeous and the facts are displayed in unique formats. Unfortunately, not all the animals are available in the free version. Even so, my kids still found lots of places to explore. We did have some trouble downloading it. This app takes up a lot of space so make sure you have enough room on your device.

food score tomatoFood Score

Food Score is a handy app to take to the grocery store when trying to make healthy choices. The Environmental Working Group has scored tens of thousands of foods based on its ingredients, nutrition and processing concerns. When shopping, you can either type in the name or scan the bar code. Each food item has an easy to read score sheet. The sheet explains why a food item received its final score as well as how it ranks compared to other brands.

Does your favorite app make the grade?

pg angry birdsMoms with Apps asked parents what they considered the most important quality when choosing an app for their child. The number one quality “extremely important” to parents was does the app protect their child’s personal information. Protecting personal information ranked above both educational and age appropriate. How can you tell if the app your child wants protects their information?

It is not easy. In 2012, the FTC investigated mobile apps aimed at kids. After reviewing hundreds of apps for kids the FTC found little, if any, information about the data collection and sharing practices of these apps. In fact, one of the recommendations the FTC made was for companies to provide this information through simple and short disclosures or icons that are easy to find and understand. The website, PrivacyGrade, is trying to do just that.

pg instagramPrivacyGrade launched in November. Here, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have analyzed over 100,000 apps and assigned each a privacy grade. An app receives a grade from A to D depending on how well it discloses its privacy practices. Like an online report card, parents can look up why an app received a “D” or “A” grade.

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Friday Rewind: Tips for managing media, apps and privacy

rewindThis week, I found 3 excellent articles filled with tips for parents on how to talk with kids and teens about media, apps and privacy.


Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image from Common Sense Media examines the role of media and technology in the development of kids’ and teens’ body image attitudes and behaviors. More than just discussing the problem, Common Sense Media offers ideas on how families can support positive images.

body image
CoPilot Family post in medium shares their 3-pronged method for guiding a child’s tech use. Their method clearly illustrates the importance of adopting a holistic approach when it comes to online safety.

copilot family
Finally, Family Online Safety Institute’s article on teen privacy suggests 6 ways parents can help teens protect their privacy online.

fosi digital parenting

yik yak feature

Ask KidsPrivacy: Yik Yak in High Schools

yik yak feature Yik Yak is the #3 app on iTunes top free apps. On Yik Yak, people can anonymously share their thoughts, observations and comments. Ideally, Yik Yak is the digital equivalent of a message board in a college coffee shop. When the app trickled in to high schools, teens did not use it this way. Instead, students posted hateful comments about fellow classmates and teachers. Recently, I received a question about Yik Yak and how schools, parents and teens can work together to take control of it.

 


Q: What about YikYak, the anonymous service similar to twitter? Now that it’s in our community, how are schools and parents partnering to keep our kids safe?

yik yak issaquahA:  The appeal of Yik Yak is complete anonymity to say anything you want. Yik Yak does not even have usernames. I have more information about Yik Yak in my Parent’s Guide to Yik Yak, but here is a quick overview. Yik Yak does resemble a local twitter feed. Teens can share “Yaks” with other users who are within 1.5 miles of them. Yaks are short messages limited to 200 characters. Once posted, other users can reply to it or promote it within Yik Yak by voting it up or down. Upvoting is essentially a like and downvoting a dislike. They can also share Yaks on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

When Yik Yak first appeared, it gained notoriety for teens using it to post bomb threats and slam classmates. Police investigated these threats and schools rushed in to ban the app. In the face of this bad publicity, Yik Yak stepped in with its own solution. They chose to place geofences around all the middle schools and high schools in the US. A geofence shuts off all access to the app within 1.5 miles of the school.

yik yak high schoolYik Yak has placed geofences around 85% of all high schools and middle schools in the US. If your school does not have one, school administrators can contact Yik Yak and they will create one. Shutting off the app during school hours does reduce the reach of the app. Teens can still post after school but now it is seen by people 1.5 miles from their house. It is the difference between shouting in the school hallways vs. shouting on the street. Gossip can still spread but not as quickly or easily. Parents can also attempt to stop teens downloading this app at home by changing the restrictions on iTunes or GooglePlay.

Banning alone is not the solution. School, parents and students need to work together to change the culture around these anonymous apps. Teens need to realize that anonymity is not a license to say anything they want without repercussions. They are still responsible for their words. On Yik Yak, they are not as anonymous as they may think. When a student posted a bomb threat on this app, the police were able to find him and arrest him. All of our phones carry a unique device ID that can be traced. No one is completely anonymous online.

Teens have a role to play in governing the use of this app. Sometimes, kids are afraid to stick up for someone online because of the fear of reprisals. By speaking up, they can become the target of the abuse as well as unintentionally feed the internet fire. On Yik Yak, teens can moderate this feed without fear. They can downvote the type of content they don’t want to see without anyone knowing who they are. When a yak receives a score of -5, it is removed. If a person’s content is continually downvoted or flagged, Yik Yak will ban them. Furthermore, they can encourage the type of content they want to see by upvoting it.

While researching Yik Yak, I discovered another app that was already moving in to take its place and this one allows pictures. There is always a new app around the corner. Instead of chasing apps, communities need to come together to incorporate digital citizenship in schools, support parents on having the digital talk at home, and teach kids and teens the value of making good choices online. We are still developing social norms for a wired world, it is important to work together to create a supportive atmosphere for our children both online and off.

 

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ESRB celebrates 20 years of Rating Games

esrb 20

Gaming has come a long way in 20 years. In the early 90s, the picture of a gamer was usually a male in the early 20s sitting alone in front of computer screen for hours. Today, 59% of Americans play video games. Most of them are not playing alone. Gaming is becoming a social activity with people playing online with friends and families. While playing games is a great way for families to connect, it can also be a source of conflict. Many of the most popular games such as Halo or Call of Duty are not for kids. Sometimes, trying to find a game that works for the entire family is a challenge. Thankfully, the ESRB is there to help families make the right choice.

esrb rating mobileThe ESRB, Entertainment Software Review Board, is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. They began rating games back in 1994. Over the last 20 years, ESRB ratings have appeared on nearly every computer or video game sold at retail in North America.

The ESRB is more than just ratings. On their website and mobile app, parents can read reviews and find out the reasons behind the rating. In our house, I turn to the ESRB and Common Sense Media, when I have questions about a game. What I love is before my kids ask to play a game they check these sites as well.

Over the last few years, I have talked with Dona Fraser,Vice President of ESRB Privacy Certified, several times about protecting kids privacy while playing games as well as how to choose the best games for your family. She always has lots of great advice for parents. To celebrate ESRB’s 20th Anniversary, I have pinned some articles about games and kids.

Finally, the ESRB asked me to be a ESRB Parent Ambassador. I am excited to be a part of an amazing group of parent bloggers. Below is the list of the Ambassdors. (Thank you techsavvymama  for the list!) Please check out their blogs for more information on choosing and playing games safely.

ESRB PARENT AMBASSADORS

Monica Vila, The Online Mom

Mary Heston, Mrs. Video Games

Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mamas

Sarah Kimmel, Tech 4 Mommies

Tina Case, Parent Grapevine

Ana Picazo, Bongga Mom

Eric & Camila, Geek Junior

Anne Livingston, Kids Privacy

Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama

Beth Blecherman, TechMamas

Kimberly Kauer, Silicon Valley Mamas

Kris Cain, Little Tech Girl

Lori Cunningham, Well Connected Mom

Kathleen Bailey, Gaggle of Gamers