5 Great Apps for Kids at Home

By Seth Woolcock

Hey parents. As if you’re job of monitoring and limiting screen time wasn’t hard enough, it just got a whole lot tougher with 42 states closing K-12 schools in response to COVID-19.

We here at 2020 Parenting will leave it up to you how much screen time is right for your kid in these unprecedented times. But maybe we can help you make that screen time more beneficial to them.

Today we’re going to look at five applications that can help your kid make the most of their screen time.

Marco Polo (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

One of the most difficult things about social distancing is not getting to see family and friends. “Marco Polo” is an app that helps keep family and friend groups close, no matter how different their lives and schedules may be.

The app combines elements of texting, social media & video chat. Groups communicate by sending videos & photos to the group.  The beauty of Marco Polo is that, though the videos and images stay in the group, they can be watched and responded to whenever it’s convenient.

Overall, “Marco Polo” is user friendly and can help your kid, you and your entire family stay in touch and keep morale high during these uncertain times.

Here’s what one mom had to say about it:

“Scrabble Go” or “Words with Friends 2” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

Since we really don’t know when schools will open again, this could be a perfect time to have them brush up on their vocabulary.

“Scrabble Go” is the mobile version of the classic board game. It has the same feel as the game you knew from childhood. You can play online with friends or against the computer. There are also some new game modes like “Word Drop,” “Tumbler” and “Rush” that offer a refreshing twist to classic Scrabble.

For more competitive players, there are even leagues and tournaments to take someone’s game to the next level.

“Words with Friends 2” is a newer and trendier take on “Scrabble.” It focuses almost as much on socializing as on word crafting. The game is not overly time-consuming, but I think it is thought-provoking.

Either one allows you to download the game yourself and show them who’s boss.

“Duolingo” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

What could be better than a kid using their screen time to expand their knowledge of the English language? How about learning another language.

I present “DuoLingo” – an iTunes’ Editor’s Choice that specializes in teaching anyone a new language in only 10 minutes per day.

“Duolingo” allows users to study any of 30 different languages. Users can select how intense they want the learning – or how relaxed.  It also offers a placement test for those who have some experience in a language.

It has daily notifications to remind users to do their “Duolingo” for the day. The free version is excellent, but for about $64.00 a year, you can upgrade to the “Pro” version and get rid of the ads and get access to advanced features. By the way, did I mention it is probably the largest, most-downloaded language learning app in the world? It’s a no brainer.

“Driving Academy 2020 Car Simulator” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)

One day, when your kid turns 16 and the DMV returns to business, they’ll want to get behind the wheel. Well, why not begin their driver education from the comfort of your own living room with “Driving Academy 2020 Car Simulator?”

It seems like a pretty sharp looking app to me. It puts teens behind a virtual wheel to help them master parking and driving skills. But don’t worry – this isn’t another “Grand Theft Auto” game.  The simulator challenges drivers to follow real road signs and the rules of the road.

The game has 250 levels, more than 135 different cars to choose from, and even a night driving mode.

“Garage Band” (Available on iTunes)

The classic Mac app, “Garage Band,” is now a popular app on most iPhones. Most likely it’s already installed on your IOS device. I think Garage Band has the potential to unlock a whole new side of your kid.

Although the app does have a slight learning curve, once your kid understands how to make different tracks and loops they can really start making music. It even allows them to use several different instruments, including a guitar, bass, piano and more.

If they don’t know how to play any of these instruments, “Garage Band” has a smart version of each instrument, making it easy to create great music.

Garage Band also has a Sound Library which allows them to pull in third-party loops and soundtracks. And of course, they can record their voice or other audio. When they eventually have some tracks and loops created, they can throw them in the app’s editing bay and create their own amazing content.

Whether it’s just making some sample music or an entire podcast, these are real skills that could be used down the road, especially in the media industry.

Again, as parents, you’re going to have some really tough decisions to make when it comes to your kid’s screen time over the next few months. My thought is if they’re going to have it, they might as well use some it to their advantage.

Good luck out there and stay healthy.

Useful Links:

TikTok’s Relaxed Terms Could Be Unsafe for Kids

By Megan Donny

TikTok, one of the most popular content-creating apps children and teens use today, is full of security concerns that parents may not be aware of. 

According to Australian ‘Cyber Cop’ Susan McLean, the app has been known to fail to remove suspicious accounts, even after complaints and warnings have been filed against them. 

These accounts could be run by possible stalkers and child predators. And the minimum age to create an account is 13 years old. This is a low age compared to other popular content-sharing apps. 

TikTok’s whole premise is video creating and sharing. Unlike Snapchat, these videos do not disappear after 24 hours. And TikTok has over 500 million monthly active users. 

The app relies on content from children and teens, who make up a majority of the users and content creators. 

While adults understand that we need to look out for our online safety, children as young as 13 might not comprehend the idea that there could be people on TikTok watching their singing and dancing videos inappropriately. 

For example, an investigation by BBC News in the UK found that children were receiving inappropriate, sexually explicit messages and that the platform was full of bullying. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK is now investigating the video sharing app, according to The Guardian. 

“Like any social media platform that has a direct message or commenting feature, there’s always the possibility that your child could be chatting with anyone, including strangers,” said Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark.

According to BBC News, even though most of the sexually explicit comments disappear within 24 hours after being reported, most of the users who posted the comments are not removed from the app. 

“Even if you set your own account to private, you may still be exposed to sexual or violent content posted to the public feed,” Jordan said. “Ranging from overtly sexual TikToks to physically dangerous stunts that kids may want to recreate, to overtly racist and discriminatory commentary, there is a wide range of concerning content on the platform.”

The app recently launched a new set of parental controls settings in the UK, following the investigations into their app. The new setting, called “Family Safety Mode,” allows parents to be able to manage their child’s screen time, limit viewable content and limit or even shut off the messaging feature on the app. 

If you can’t access the new “Family Safety Mode”, I at a minimum advise that you make your child’s TikTok account private. Common Sense Media advises parents to make sure to turn on all privacy settings for accounts kids are using, so only people you know can interact with their videos or messages on the app. Parents should also teach their children about the possible effects that posting their personal information can have in the long run. 

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47813350

https://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/tiktok-is-a-pedophile-magnet-and-unsafe-for-kids-warns-cyber-security/?utm_source=JERF&fbclid=IwAR23txVdFF13qaNqVEEmjWf5WnDs2VEaPoYk-HGE0kuIUAK4zTHxxX2E7lc

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-tiktok

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jul/05/why-tiktok-is-facing-greater-scrutiny-video-sharing-app-child-safety

https://www.parents.com/kids/safety/internet/is-tiktok-safe-for-kids/

Two Very Popular Apps Your Kid Might Have Going Back to School

by Seth Woolcock

As your kid heads back to school this year with their new blue jeans and Nikes, they may also be taking two new apps along with them.

One is “TikTok,” a popular short-form video sharing app that is currently #1 on the Apple App Store. The other is “YOLO,” a new anonymous question and answer app students can use as a plug-in with Snapchat. It is #18 on the app store.

While these apps might help your kid pass time on their bus ride home or during lunch, there are also some real dangers that parents need to be aware of.

TikTok and Sharing Private Information

TikTok is a social media service that is designed to let users watch, create and share videos. Often times these videos are filled with today’s top music hits, which users have access to for free.

Originally known as “musical.ly,” before that app merged with TikTok in August 2018, this social media channel combines several key concepts from other popular apps.

It has the feel of “Vine,” a former, popular video sharing service that was known for its hilarious 6-second videos. But unfortunately, due to a lack of revenue, Twitter shut down Vine in January 2017.

When I was a tween myself, Vine was insanely popular for a summer. While I didn’t have a smart phone at the time, all my friends were using it. And from what I remember of the app, it was mostly filled with people doing dumb stunts in order to get likes.

TikTok uses the same rabbit-hole tactic that YouTube uses to hook young users. It pre-loads the next video to keep you from leaving the app.

But just like any social media, the real concern is the amount of private information your kid could be sharing with the world. TikTok makes it easy to share too much information with strangers. In fact, by default, TikTok accounts are set to public, which allows ANYONE to see your videos and location information, and it allows anyone to direct message you.

To learn how to change your kid’s TikTok settings to private, check out this short video. It literally only takes a minute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgrGwn60yyE

By the way, TikTok had to make a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission this year for illegally obtaining children’s personal information. In response, the app created a section just for children. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/02/video-social-networking-app-musically-agrees-settle-ftc  However, this can easily be bypassed by providing a false birth date.

Of course, the other major issue with this app is the content kids are watching. Because popular music has a large amount of foul and sexualized language today, your kid might be exposing themselves to this language as well as watching people dance in suggestive ways. Maybe you’re not ready for your kid to watch this.

YOLO and the Danger or Anonymous Apps

When I was growing up, the acronym “YOLO” became popular. It meant “You Only Live Once”.  Pretty tame, I guess, but the app is potentially more dangerous, I think.

The app YOLO encourages users to “get anonymous answers” as soon as they are logged into the app. You can either create your own question to ask, or use the “dice” that will prompt a pre-made question. The app then encourages you to post the answers on your Snapchat story.

I have seen a lot of people say some fairly inappropriate things to others using this app. My big concern is cyber bullying. The app is popular enough that a lot of kids could be targeted by these anonymous comments.

According to, the Pew Research Center (https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/09/27/a-majority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/), last year at this time, more than 59 percent of teens said they experienced some sort of cyber bullying.

Former anonymous social media apps, like “Ask.FM,” “Sarahah” and “YikYak,” created social havoc in my high school, in my opinion. There was such an outcry that a letter was sent home to parents asking them to get their children to stop using these apps. If I remember correctly, iTunes and the Google Play store actually kicked off Sarahah from their platforms in 2018, after they received enormous amounts of backlash because of cyber bullying.  https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-43174619

Ironically, I believe tweens use these anonymous social media apps so they can get acceptance from their peers. However, they often get the inverse.

I think it’s crucial that kids grow up slowly with these apps. You will want to have a serious conversation with your kid about these apps. Sharing personal information and getting caught up in cyber bullying are just two of the issues you should discuss. Try some of our links if you want to learn more.

More helpful Links:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-musically

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/06/18/yolo-app-raises-bullying-concerns/1292307001/

Here is an additional resource sent to us:
https://www.allconnect.com/blog/is-tiktok-safe-for-kids

Be Careful With Those Buy/Sell/Trade Apps

By Seth Woolcock

Hey parents. This one’s about YOU and YOUR KIDS. 

It’s always important that you keep up with the latest “technology” trends. Particularly if they might pose a risk to you and your family. A Twitter thread that recently went viral was posted by SaraSuze (@tragedythyme). It was a reminder about using apps to meet up with strangers.

pic of tweet by SaraSuze

(Here’s a link to the tweet: https://twitter.com/tragedythyme

Luckily, the tweet did not tell of an attack, but it did go viral. Probably because many women want men to know it isn’t as easy for them to do something that most men don’t worry about – like meeting a stranger to buy, sell or trade something.

Sara was using the app LetGo. It’s a very popular app. Currently #26 on the Apple App Store.  Many similar apps are also popular, like Offer Up, Vinted, and DeClutter.

It’s true that these apps are slowly phasing out traditional trading sites like eBay or Craiglist. And no one really thinks the younger generation is going to be reading the classified ads (if newspapers still exist). So it’s likely your kid will eventually use one of these apps.

On the positive side, the apps are easy to navigate, and many have filters that make them a more convenient buying and selling experience.  But it is still the case you don’t necessarily know who you’re communicating with. Fortunately, I’ve had mostly good experiences. 

For example, I’ve also used LetGo. It is a basic buying and selling app. Users post items for sale, communicate with potential customers, and hopefully sell the item once you meet up in person. The biggest con many might experience with the app is that you can’t pay within the app, so sometimes closing the deal can be a drag.

I bought a Long Board once using the app, and it was as easy as showing up at a lady’s door, handing the woman $25, and taking the board home.

I’ve also used Facebook’s Marketplace. Ironically, this might be one of the safer methods because you can easily check out the person’s profile before you meet with them. Of course, just because the person’s profile looks legit doesn’t mean it always is. There are some fake bot profiles that post items and vehicles that are too good to be true, in an attempt to scam you. But, I actually did buy my car off of Facebook Marketplace and it went surprisingly well. I got a reliable car for a great deal from an honest guy who was moving South with his family. But I’ve also had friends whose experiences did not go as well.

It doesn’t take much work to find a news story about a bad buying experience on one of these apps. Pooja St. Amand, of Middletown, Connecticut, told ABC News in a 2017 interview that she was robbed after attempting to sell an iPad. Although she took proper precautions by meeting the stranger in a populated community center parking lot, she still felt she was put in serious danger.  (link)

I’ve also used OfferUP.  It’s pretty much identical to LetGo, though some say it has worse customer service. I used this app when I sold some old KC Lights that go on top of a car. I had a good experience and the buyer came the next day to pick them up for his Jeep Wrangler.

Some other apps I haven’t tried include Vinted, a sales app used for trading older clothing and other vintage items specifically, and, Declutter, an online yard sale. There’s also thredUp, a newer app for selling secondhand clothing.

Tips to stay safe when buying and selling online

Although all of my online buying and selling experiences were OK, they did get me thinking after I read @tragedythyme’s tweet. What if they hadn’t? And what if I was smaller, or a woman, or teen? I was a guy, over 18 years old, and I did take a few precautions.

So after a little bit of research I discovered these tips for using buy/sell/trade apps:

Call your local police department to find a safe meet-up spot.

People used to say to meet a stranger in a public space, such as the parking lot of a McDonalds. It used to be just make sure there is enough light so you are visible.

But because of recent stories of assaults and robberies during meet-ups even in public areas, some local police departments have set up designated safe meet-up spots. Most of them are located in the parking lot of the police station. I agree – that should work.

Bring a friend.

Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, it’s always good to be on the safe side and make sure you or your kids are not meeting a stranger alone. The more the merrier, I think.

Use your phone.

That might feel obvious, but it bears repeating – always have your phone. And maybe make sure other people know you are making a transaction. Share your location with your friend, spouse or family member. And keep “location tracking” turned on.  To learn how to enable this on your iOS device or Android, click here.

Use cash and avoid giving out personal information.

I discovered you should only bring the agreed upon amount of cash. And while it’s always nice to meet a friendly face, don’t let your guard down. Also, avoid giving up crucial personal information, such as your address, bank information, occupation or social security number.

Trust your gut.

At the end of the day, you have to listen to that little voice inside your head. Be aware of your surroundings and leave if things somehow begin to go south. No amount of money is worth your safety and well-being.

Will this danger get worse in the future?

As time goes on, it seems likely the dangers of meeting strangers with buy/sell/trade apps will only grow. For example, very recently, three LetGo-related attacks occurred in a small Delaware community (link )

Most of these occurred while people were buying or selling a smartphone. The attackers took the victims’ cellphones and wallets. One victim was even injured.

 So, at the end of the day, YOU and YOUR KIDS need to be careful with these apps. You have to be sure to set a good example. And be aware of your kids online behavior. Are they going to start buying and selling things online? You’ll want to know.

For some of our other blogs on your kid’s technology, try: