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Finding Media & Apps for Kids

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My son can't keep his hands off Daddy's iPad, so it's important that I find age appropriate applications, movies and TV shows that I consider being educational, or at least a valuable use of their time. While I love recommendations from other parents with kids the same age, I also have a couple resources I found that will help you track down the gems in the sea of available media. 

All Media

Try Common Sense Media, which provides viewers with ratings for every category of media: books, movies, TV shows, games, applications, websites and music. Their rating system is based upon recommendations from child development experts nationwide who provide criteria for what content and activities are suited for each age range. Their ratings are multi-layered, giving you guidelines for age-appropriate content while also evaluating the "messages" provided by the game, and whether or not the application or website has a good "learning potential" for your child.  

Browse by the type of media you're trying to find (such as "movie reviews"), or keep up to date with what's hot with their "New This Week" and "Editor's Picks" features.  Reviews are sorted by age range, and you can click on multiple ages simultaneously if you have a couple different ages in your household. They even have a section for children with special-needs or learning-differences. Lastly, suggestions are provided for parents to enhance the media experience, explain how to explore, discussions on how to enjoy the content, and it even provides sample questions to get your kids talking about lessons and themes.

Movies  

OK covers all-things movies. Movies are rated by users, so the data is pooled into the rating system that then gives an age range (OK for 6+, for example) and also a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down," denoting if the movie is worth your time. Users post detailed movie reviews, much like you see when you use Netflix, but they're generally family-oriented reviews that contain details to help you decide if the movie is right for your family. 

Search for movies based on MPAA rating (G, PG, etc.), where the movie is available for viewing (theater, Redbox, Netflix Streaming or Netflix DVD), and look for the genre you're interested in. It connects through Facebook to share when you rate movies or write your own reviews. It also follows other reviewers that share your taste and standards, allowing you to build a community of movie reviewers to suit your own family.

From One Nerdy Mom to Another  

Cool Mom Tech provides reviews and recommendations for tech and applications. Their tagline says it all: "We're not techies who parent; we're moms who use tech in our everyday lives." Follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Or simply click on "Best Kids' Apps" and you're greeted with pages of suggestions laid out in a blog-like fashion with pictures and links to more detailed reviews. 

Looking for the Top 5

Mashable has a nice weekly feature called "Top 5 Apps for Kids This Week," found under Lifestyle --> Family & Parenting. Ratings are given for ease of use, educational benefits, entertainment value of the application, and age appropriateness levels. Keep in mind some of their recommended applications are not free. 

Study Based for a Fee  

Children's Technology Review has been studying children's interactive media products since 1985. They provide ratings on products and applications in a similar way to Consumer Reports - extensive road testing and set criteria is used to evaluate each product they review. Like Consumer Reports, there is a fee-for-service: $30 per year for a monthly PDF newsletter emailed to you. Each issue contains about 50 reviews of tech toys, websites, apps, video games and more.

Friendly Reminder

Every child is different and learns at a different pace, so not all rating systems will be perfect. They're intended as a guideline to help you in your decision-making with regards to what content your kids are exposed to. Ultimately, you know your child best and you will be the best determinant of what he/she is ready for. Remember, always screen content before you hand over the iPad or turn on the TV.
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