Article: Raising Kids in a Digital World – How do we keep our kids safe and build character?

Parents with kids at home using laptop computer

Real tips for teaching character to kids of all ages using media and tech.By Sierra Filucci
As parents, we have many hopes for our kids. We want them to grow up to live happy, successful lives. We hope they’ll find love, maybe have kids of their own, and pursue their dreams. But at the bottom of all these wishes is the hope that our kid turns into a decent human being — someone who is kind, respectful, and honest.

How do you bolster these strengths as well as teach key skills such as teamwork, communication, and perseverance? For the most part, kids will learn these things by following your example and through experience gained at school and in their communities. But media is another entry point. Since movies, TV shows, books, video games, and social media are such a huge part of kids’ lives, it makes sense that kids can learn important lessons about character through media.

Here are some specific things you can do or say to reinforce character:

Watch sports.
Not only can watching sports with kids be a really fun way to bond over a favorite team or player, it can be a perfect opportunity to point out character strengths from teamwork to perseverance. After cheering over a big touchdown or basket, point out how important the linebackers or passers were to the score: Even though they don’t get all the attention, the team wouldn’t be successful without the admirable work of supporting players.

Share social media.
From Facebook and Instagram to YouTube, social media is ripe with character lessons. If you notice a post, photo, or video of something especially touching or beautiful, share it with your kid and comment on how much courage it took for the poster to share their story or creative expression. Discuss the risks involved with putting yourself out there and how important it is to take (reasonable) risks to be true to yourself, even though you might face criticism.

Expand your horizons.
Watching documentaries or movies about people who live very different lives can trigger empathy,compassion, and humility. During a family movie night, choose something out of the ordinary — a story about someone of a different race or religion, or about a community that’s less fortunate than yours, or a subculture with different values or beliefs than yours — and encourage discussion afterward.

Play video games together.
Gaming as a family offers the chance to practice teamwork, problem-solving, communication, andperseverance, while also having fun. Choose multiplayer games where gamers are required to work together to win. Model positive, respectful communication during the game (try “I need help over here” instead of “you idiot!”). If kids are trying over and over again to achieve a game goal, you can recognize their effort as well as their success.

Take a time-out.
Most households are abuzz as various mobile devices alert us to text messages or Instagram posts. But we can help teach our kids self-control by resisting the urge to respond immediately. Next time you hear a text message alert (and you know it’s nothing urgent), say out loud, “I don’t need to check that right now.” This lesson can work on social media, too. If you’re a Twitter or Facebook user and you see something that makes you mad, talk through with your kid why you don’t want to respond right away (“I might say something I regret because I’m upset” or “I’d rather tell my friend that this bothers me privately instead of publicly on Twitter”).

 

About the Author

Sierra has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade, with a special interest in women’s and family subjects. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. With an extensive and abiding interest in pop culture, kids, and bossing people around, her role as executive editor of parenting content brings her skills and obsessions together in perfect harmony. When she’s not watching Miyazaki movies with her two kids, she enjoys Parks and Recreation, The Walking Dead, and Top Chef. Google+

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsensemedia.org.



Pillow Mountain by Van Winkle Studio LLC – Review



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What we love…

Readers learning together with Nolan on how to make monsters go away.

What we’d love to see…

Words highlighted in sync with the narration.

Summary

A great storybook to share with your children if you want to start a dialogue with them about their fears.

Our Rating

Is your young one having a hard time going to bed every night because he/she is afraid of the dark or just being alone in bed? Or perhaps he/she is being kept awake by nightmares and scary monsters lurking in the shadows.

Childhood fears are real for our kids and it is easy for us adults to ignore them just because they don’t really exist, but this doesn’t help our kids at all.

On the other hand, we can take these age appropriate fears seriously, tell our kids that it’s ok to talk about their fears and teach them how to face their fears confidently and courageously instead.

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Pillow Mountain by Van Winkle Studio LLC offers us the perfect opportunity to do just that. It is a simple and enjoyable rhyming storybook about Nolan’s dangerous journey through the mountain in his dream, where he encounters frightening monsters and how he conquers his fears to get back to the safety of his bed. I especially like the part of the story where Nolan realizes the true form of the monsters when he turns to face them instead of running away from them.

The story is well designed for the preschool age group. The length of the story is just right. Animations are minimal and there are fun little interactive spots on each page. The narration and soundtrack together make Nolan’s adventure exciting yet scary at the same time, which is meant to engage the young readers to relate their own experiences. The dreamlike world is also ideal for kids who do not like cutesy or childish illustrations. What the app needs is an option for young readers to start the story again at the end instead of using the page menu.

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Pillow Mountain is a great storybook to share with your children if you want a ready opportunity to discuss about their fears, whatever they may be. Most kids outgrow their childhood fears but we can make the process a lot easier with our reassurance. Check out the free Web Book version and a video on the interactive book app version of Pillow Mountain below.

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Pillow Mountain

Pillow Mountain Pillow Mountain by Van Winkle Studio LLC
Category: Books, Entertainment
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPhone8-iPhone8, iPhone8Plus-iPhone8Plus, iPhoneX-iPhoneX
Size: 172.29 MB

$0.99USD

 

 

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

Grace was working in the fields of early childhood education and staff training before quitting to attend to her 4 children full time. She and her family live in Singapore, which is well known for her highly competitive education system.


Bitsboard PRO – The Best Educational Learning Games and Flash Cards in 1 App by Innovative Investments Limited – Review & Giveaway



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What we love…

Fully customizable lessons with lots of different learning modes.

What we’d love to see…

Even more boards on math.

Summary

Bitsboard Pro is the ultimate educational app with top-quality content and outstanding enabling features to meet the learning needs of every child.

Our Rating

How many times have you wished that you can modify a well-developed learning app just that little bit to better match your child’s skills. Or thought of replacing some of the content with your own instead? Have you ever wondered if there is this ONE App that can meet most (if not all) of your child’s educational needs? What about an app that can accommodate the educational goals and learning difficulties of an entire class?

This is a tall order for any app considering children learn at different pace and thrive in different learning environment. And to be able to add our own content in an app seems like an impossible task! But Bitsboard Pro has all our wishes covered. It is the ultimate educational app for children from preschool right up to elementary school level, giving you access to thousands of topics (with many new ones added every month) and the ability to customize the way students learn in the app as well as the app content itself.

Alright, most of us don’t have the time nor inclination to create our own content. We just want an app that has ready-to-download learning materials and Bitsboard has lots of content to offer. After creating a user account, you can browse through Bitsboard’s extensive lessons catalog or search for specific lessons and download (over the internet) the ones that you need. Here, lessons are presented in individual boards, each containing a series of flashcards (bits). Topics include languages, vocabulary, grammar, reading (sight words, word families, phonics, readers), sentence maker, speech, spelling, letter tracing, math facts, math operations, money, time telling, sign language, routines, sequences, emotions and many more! The free version of Bitsboard itself comes with lots of shared resources that you can start with right away.

What I really love in Bitsboard is that you can choose up to 30 fully customizable learning modes or games that help children to learn and retain the information presented in the lessons. You can start with the simpler games and progress to the more complex ones. With so many different ways to learn the same materials, students remain engaged and learn better. Check out Bitsboard’s long list of fun learning games – Flashcards, Explore, True or False, Photo Touch, Photo Hunt, Memory Cards, Pop Quiz, Match Up, Word Builder, Sentence Builder, Spelling Bee, BINGO, Letter Tracing, Sequences, Related items, Word Search, Word Chunks, Crosswords, Unscramble, Say It, Missing Item, Puzzles, Reader, What’s Next, Odd One Out, Sort It, Side by Side, Story Time, Genius, Review Game and Board Creator

For each game, you can modify things like the session length, with or without visual/audio hints, spelling order, display options, number of tiles, matching options and answer mode. Customization is easy but it would be tedious if you have more than 1 user. Luckily, you don’t have to keep adjusting the settings and preferences as these are saved for each user (unlimited users for the Pro version). Likewise, the tracking of detailed progress and lesson plans is stored at the user level. Bitsboard’s learning algorithm also ensures that each game automatically advances according to the individual user’s skills.

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If you are an educator, you will like the ease of creating custom lessons with your own cards (from photo library, dropbox, web search or Bitsboard Catalog of images), audio recording and text (words, phrases, sentences, description). Your students can learn anything you present to them using the Bitsboard learning games. You can also set up your own exclusive class with your own selection of boards for sharing with your students or fellow teachers privately.

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I’m truly impressed with all the meaningful features that have been continually added in Bitsboard in order to support students and educators. There are many more that are not mentioned here. This all-in-one educational app far exceeds all my expectations in terms of content and ability to be customized. I don’t think you’ll find another app that is as versatile and comprehensive as this. Bitsboard Pro is an essential learning app that all families and classes must have!

Bitsboard PRO – The Best Educational Learning Games and Flash Cards in 1 App
Free lite version –

Bitsboard PRO - Flashcards & Educational Games App Bitsboard PRO - Flashcards & Educational Games App by Innovative Investments Limited
Category: Education, Games, Family
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPhone8-iPhone8, iPhone8Plus-iPhone8Plus, iPhoneX-iPhoneX
Size: 197.08 MB

$19.99USD

Giveaway

If you would like to win a promo code for this app, please enter via the widget below. This giveaway is open to everyone, worldwide, and an iTunes account is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

Grace was working in the fields of early childhood education and staff training before quitting to attend to her 4 children full time. She and her family live in Singapore, which is well known for her highly competitive education system.


Autism Core Skills: A curriculum to teach academic, social, and communication skills by Infiniteach Inc – Review



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What we love…

comprehensive curriculum designed by Autism experts to build early literacy, social skills in a variety of teaching methods which reward kids for completing themed lessons. It takes what used to be shelves of materials, translates them to lessons all in one easy to load app that can be used when and where you need it rather than having to create and carry around materials

What we’d love to see…

ability to practice some of the games that involve turn taking virtually

Summary

Overall, I felt that this app had a huge amount of content included for the price and could be a great supplement to be used at home during therapy sessions, to reinforce learning at school as well as making sure they stayed on task.

Our Rating

Autism Core Skills: A curriculum to teach academic, social, and communication skills, collect data, and individualize lessons. By Infiniteach.

Core Skills by Infiniteach Inc is an educational iPad only app built by autism experts who have worked with children on the Autism Spectrum. The app is designed for those with autism or other developmental delays to help them reach their fullest potential. The app offers materials ranging from preschool through first grade level lessons in academics, social and communication domains based on Common Core Learning Standards.  Infiniteach is an autism edteach company which is dedicated to developing educational iPad apps for students on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Christopher Flit, the Founder and Chief Creative Officer was a special education teacher who trained over 12,000 parents and teachers in Illinois and across the United States about best practice autism strategies.  Katie, a co-founder is a former Special Education Teacher and has a brother on the Autism Spectrum.  Lally, a co-founder, is a behavioral therapist who works with children and adults who have ASD.  The company was formed when the three came together with the shared believe that unlimited access to proven teaching strategies can help children with autism and developmental delays increase independence and create meaningful relationships.

It includes a number of features, which are highlighted below that allow children with developmental delays or ASD to work on social and communication skills either with another adult such as a parent or therapist or a peer.  The app collects and saves data from all lessons and can be used on two iPads.  Infiniteach Inc. also offers a one week trial so you can determine if the app is a good fit for your child/situation.

Features/Games included within the app

  • Skill building:  The academic lessons include foundational lessons for preschool (color concepts, big/ little, shapes, picture match, etc.), math (counting, grouping, addition, etc), and reading (lower and uppercase find, sight words, rhyming, main ideas and details, etc.).  
  • Social and Communication Lessons: The social interaction lessons provide two-player games that teach cooperative play and the importance of turn taking, such as following rules and sharing. The communication lessons help students express themselves and build conversation skills while working with a partner. This section can be adapted where the user asks questions and the other person types it in (which is great to practice listening skills!) as well as used to practice turn taking.
  • Themes: range from animals, trains, sports, food and many more which engage kids and after the successfully finish a lesson they are rewarded with brief video. The video aligns with the theme in the lesson.  You can turn on and off specific themes depending on your child’s interest.
  • Data Collection:  dashboard where data on lessons is recorded and displayed in charts and graphs which can be shared and printed. As each student completes their lessons, data is automatically collected, stored, and graphed which can be shared or printed.
  • Printable Materials: There are also off iPad activities available (printable worksheets/curriculum) that parents or teachers can print and then manually add results to the data graphs which allows for continued data collection. The worksheets help take lessons learned within the app and move them to a more concrete “real world” application.  Once they are completed, they can be kept and used as sample work in a portfolio or discarded.
  • Frustration Free Learning: Lessons adjust in difficulty to ensure children are always learning at relevant levels of proficiency. The app also includes visual lists and errorless learning (for example – if the child starts to make mistakes, then the lesson gets easier) or vice versa which ensures your child stays on task and engaged with the app.
  • Collaboration:  With a paid account, you get a free collaborator account which helps ensure continuity of learning – this could be a teacher, parent or even a therapist and data is synced between the accounts. The child can practice with the collaborator on their iPad in the same room at the same time.
  • Customized profiles: The customized profile allows you to enter and save information about your child including interests, attention span, specific themes, making this great for small classroom and home usage.

infinireach

I loved the amount of material contained within the app.  I have spent hours exploring it, and have found lots of great lessons which I tested out with my son. I liked how you could choose specific themes for the app – so if trains or the ocean was a particular favorite it was easy to get specific themed lessons around that.  Gathering the data was helpful too – and once your child starts a lesson they are “locked” into it where the parent has to enter a passcode for them to exit.  This means that they will focus on the app – and hopefully complete the activities successfully.  You can change the pin number, so kids don’t get to know what it is even if they see you enter it.  I liked also that the app encouraged not only learning material, but applying it both on and off device as well as the ability to ask questions. The keyboard and social skills games were a bit confusing for my son.  I love how the content is customized and that it gets easier or harder depending on how your child does – then you can track it over time to see if a pattern emerges.  I liked the turn taking activities – and my son did too once he understood “why” the screen flipped.  The images within the app helped my son remember better than just words on the screen which appeals to those that may learn in a variety of different ways.  The support experience is fast – and they are working to develop more support for parents and children who are using the app. The app also moves from printed or physical materials which have to be designed, used and then finally stored when not in use. Now you can just launch an app on your device, customize the content to them and have it ready in moments and on the fly rather than having to plan it out to be ready for a therapy session.

In terms of enhancements, the keyboard and social skills games were a bit confusing for my son.  He didn’t understand why typing on the keyboard was “upside down” from the way that the words printed on the screen.  I kept trying to explain to him that it wasn’t upside down, and he was meant to be sitting across from me but since he’s used to the dynamic keyboard on the iPad which flips when it is oriented he was bothered by it.  The app is used in portrait mode – and it does not automatically flip when you re-orient the iPad – which isn’t a problem per se but does require some explaining for kids.  I would love to see a way where the collaborator and student during turn taking games could collaborate even if they were not in the same room.  Right now, I’ve only been able to figure out how to do it when both people are in the room and can press the arrow.   The login portion of the app was a bit cumbersome and the developer recently changed it so you can do an in-app purchase to unlock additional content rather than having to use their website.  I’d also like to have the ability to have printables specific to the curriculum you are working on emailed so I didn’t have to login to another location.

Overall, I felt that this app had a huge amount of content included for the price and could be a great supplement to be used at home during therapy sessions, to reinforce learning at school as well as making sure they stayed on task.  The reporting, customized content and information help to provide a comprehensive set of materials for late preschool through early elementary school to ensure that consistency is measured along with the material learned.  By using images, touch screen and manipulation of content students move from passive learners to those immersed in their education and are likely to retain more content.

The app has In-App Purchases for the material after the one week trial.

  • $99.99/USD annually for one student profile (home use)
  • $139.99/USD annually for up to 5 student profiles (Medium)
  • $189.99/USD annually for up to 10 student profiles (Premium)

Autism Core Skills - Academic, Communication, and Social Skills Plus Data
Autism Core Skills - Academic, Communication, and Social Skills Plus Data
by Infiniteach Inc

Category: Education, Medical
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74
Size: 153.48 MB

$FREE

Screenshots for iPad
(Click to enlarge)

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

 

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.

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