It's easy to find math and reading apps: There are thousands in every app store. Sometimes, though, kids don't want to use one more app that's obviously educational. No problem -- if you've ever snuck some spinach into a smoothie, you're ready for this challenge!
You can definitely work learning into your kid's digital diet even if they can sniff out and refuse an educational tool from 30 paces. If the app is a little unconventional, its weirdness often gets kids interested without broadcasting that it's educational. Also, lots of casual games -- especially puzzlers and problem-solving-centered apps -- are great for critical thinking and executive function skills. And if you're watching or playing with your kid, you can capitalize on all the potential teachable moments that may be very specific to your kid.
Ever have a kid pretend they didn't hear you when you asked them to shut down an iPad? How about outright refuse? How about showing secretive behavior, like minimizing windows when you walk by? These are the moments that make parents want to find a parental control they can install so they can know what their kids are doing online -- and shut it down when they won't do it themselves.
It's definitely tempting, and there's certainly no shortage of devices, programs, and apps. And they may indeed work well for some families. But imagine following your kids around to always put broccoli on their plates or listening to every conversation. Ultimately, we want our kids to learn to make healthy choices on their own, and we don't want to damage our relationship with them by invading their privacy. What's missing from many of these products is the ongoing conversation that serves as the training wheels to help kids learn how to regulate themselves, practice being safe and responsible online, and deal with the fallout from the mistakes they make. Only we can do that. Sure, we can track and turn off devices with a tap, but we also need to become that guiding voice in their heads that they can carry with them -- like they carry their phones -- so they can learn the skills they need to use devices responsibly in the future.