A lot of things change when you become a parent. The shows you watch, the restaurants you go to and the concept of sleep as you once knew it all evolve when your family structure transforms from a “me” to a ”we.” And increasingly, personal gadgets like smartphones are following the same trend.
“One day I looked at my phone and realized I had almost as many apps on it for my daughter as I did for myself,” says Kat Holmes, principal designer for Microsoft’s Windows Phone. “My smartphone had stopped being just mine.” In fact, a recent study conducted by Babycenter.com shows that 75 percent of moms regularly hand over their smartphone to their kids.
But even with smartphone use among kids on the rise, concerns remain over how to keep curious fingers from navigating where they shouldn’t. This concern is what inspired Kat and the team at Microsoft to build new parent-friendly features into the company’s latest Windows Phone products. The most notable is Kid’s Corner, a space within your phone just for kids where they only have access to the apps, games, music and videos selected for them. So you can hand your phone over and let them explore while your personal stuff is safe and password protected. Kid’s Corner also disables browsing, calling and purchasing, so you won’t have any surprises on your phone bill later.
In addition to working full-time at Microsoft, Kat is also a mother of two small kids so she’s familiar with the challenges of creating balance in a busy week. “Tech plays a role in helping our family stay connected – keeping track of our schedules, our to-dos and each other,” says Kat. “And yes, sometimes letting my kids watch a video on my phone gives me a few moments of quiet to catch my breath.”
We asked Kat for a few more tech tips for creating balance as you share your smartphone with your kids.
*Partner with your kids to curate their mobile experience: To make mobile time fun, set aside time with your kids to choose new mobile content together, including new apps, music and videos. You’ll have peace of mind knowing what your kids are looking at, while giving them a sense that there is a space that’s just for them.
*Smartphones can be a simple way for kids to create and share: Smartphones aren’t just about apps, they’re also a way for kids to capture and share the world from their point of view. “My kids like to make little video messages for me and post them for me to find later,” says Kat. “They can’t accidentally send or upload photos from Kid’s Corner, so I know everything they make is just going to stay on my phone.” For other creative outlets with tech Kat suggests Kid’s Draw Free – an ad-free app that lets kids create and share their everyday masterpieces.
*Technology is more than entertainment, it can be educational too: A recent Qualcom survey found that 74 percent of parents have downloaded a mobile app for their kids. While many apps out there are solely for fun and entertainment, there are hundreds of great educational apps that can help kids hone their skills – everything from drawing to spelling to memorizing. A few of Kat’s favorites include:
Animal Memory – with pictures and sounds of wild animals and farm animals, this matching game helps kids hone their memory skills
Connect the Dots – this hand-drawing free app also teaches kids how to read the names of the pictures they’re drawing
*Turn that fighting into a lesson on sharing: As a mother of two, Kat has learned that sometimes one phone isn’t enough, noting, “With more than one kid in the room, it’s pretty common to have fights over whose turn it is. Try uploading a stop watch or timer like the Six Stop Watch app to your device and encourage your kids to engage in 5- to 10-minute increments, and then hand it over to the next in line.”
To learn more about the family-friendly features available on Windows Phone, including Kid’s Corner, visit windowsphone.com.