Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently wrote a small but important article called “iPhones, iPads, and Christian Parenting” on the danger of unsupervised, unrestricted internet access for our children. He made a biblical comparison to the strong words in Matthew 7:10 where Jesus told the crowd how no one would give their child a serpent when they asked for a fish. You can read his entire article here.
My four year old daughter, Callie Grace, is like so many other children who amaze their parents by the speed at which they master the same technology that confounds adult minds. Callie can use the touch screen on her “iPad” (see below for what she really has) to quickly and easily dial up whatever she would like to find, and at times, things she would not like to find. I am thankful to read Dr. Moore’s final paragraph of his article. He admits that the digital age is a good thing. Many parents are understandably concerned about the adverse effects of a digital world, but there are even greater concerns when attempting to prevent our children from living in the 21st century. Internet and digital technology is not something we can or should hide from. We should see it as a tool for blessing. Yet, as is always the case, the tools of blessing can quickly become instruments of a curse.
Andi and I have found a simple and free app we use with our daughter to help monitor and restrict access to the internet through a tablet or phone. Although it is free, there are no annoying (or potentially dangerous) ads that fly all over the screen. One of the ironic realities of free apps for children is that many of them remain free by placing ads on their product and the ads are sometimes linked to pages not suitable for children. Frustrating.
Kids Place is an app I use everyday with Callie Grace. The app essentially provides a desktop experience specifically arranged and tweaked for children. When you open the app, you are instructed to create a 4 digit pin that will provide access to the settings necessary to add apps and to exit the platform. Suppose you have 5 apps you would like your child to have access to, but you want to avoid the possibility of them randomly surfing the web, accidentally ordering something, making a phone call, etc. With Kids Place, you determine what apps are on their own unique desktop (even has different background settings that look wonderful) and then you can hand them the tablet with no worry. They cannot access anything except the approved apps without a 4 digit pin. Yet, it doesn’t feel restrictive because the desktop and background is their very own and operates just like normal, except it will only provide access to what you, the parent, have given permission.
If you are interested in the tablet we use for Callie Grace, I am happy to share my research with you. I wanted to find something that was a genuine, effective tablet experience without spending multiple hundreds of dollars on a top of the line product. I was not interested in the “kids tablets” such as the Nabi or LeapPad2, although those do have some nice features. If I had gone that route, Callie Grace would have still felt like she was simply dealing with a toy and it would have limited the possibility for me to teach her full responsibility with the tablet. I also wanted something Google certified (I obviously was not going the iPad route). Being Google certified means, among other things, that the tablet will have access to Google Play, the store where you download apps (such as Kids Place mentioned above). This is the biggest “trick” of super cheap tablets. Not all are Google certified and there are certain limitations placed on non-certified tablets. (there are ways around the limitations, but who wants to go through all that nonsense?).
I found the Coby 7 inch 16:9 tablet, model number MID7065-8 to be perfect. I purchased the tablet on Amazon for $97 (I notice it is $127 today). It has a perfectly crisp display, is Google certified, and is priced right. The battery life is not terrific, but provides more than enough juice for the limited time Callie Grace will be playing on it. The tablet is powered by Android 4.0, has a front facing camera for video chat, and 8GB of internal memory. Although the durability is definitely something to be concerned about when in the hands of a 4 year old, protection for the tablet can be purchased (Callie Grace knows to only play while on the couch or her bed to help avoid drops and cracks). So far, so good.