It is hard to believe that smart phones are over 20 years old. It is even harder to believe that after 20 years, it’s still a very bad idea to let your kid play with your phone. Of course, you have to worry about the phone breaking, but you also have to worry about what they delete or move, who they might call, what text they might read, or whether they just bought a $700 TV you were dreaming about on Amazon. Children and cell phones are a reality that parents will fear until the end of time… or is it? For the past three years, since I have owned a cell phone, I have downloaded hundreds of “kid friendly” apps; learning apps, play apps, apps that claim to make the phone child proof – payed apps and free apps alike. Nothing has compared to what Samsung devices with the more recent operating systems have started coming with. Today, you will hear Andrew’s (Sarah’s husband) take on Kids Mode and why they use it for their family.
Enter Samsung Kids Mode
Kids mode is everything I have ever wanted in a kid friendly app. The only complaints I did have about it were fixed in the update. Kids mode works like a second operating system on the phone. You control every aspect of what your kids can play or do while making sure they cannot buy things. That’s right, all those tricky little links and purchase options are disabled by the good people at Samsung.
Let’s start with Parental Controls at the bottom right of the home screen. On kids mode, you have two icons. To the far right is the EXIT icon, which will prompt you for a PIN to exit. No PIN, no leaving. It is that simple. You will notice on the Close Kids Mode screen on the top right is an emergency dialer icon. As far as I know, it will only let you dial 911. Honestly, I haven’t checked it. Tap the HOME button, and the next icon to the left is the PARENTAL CONTROLS. Once again, it will prompt for a PIN.
At the main screen for PARENTAL CONTROLS, you can see the total time your children have played with the app, as well as the most frequently used apps. This is a great way to get a quick look at what your kids are doing when you’re not hanging over their shoulders. Real quick, lets talk about all that we can control.
Profile – For the house with multiple children, you can set up a profile with different options for each child. The selected profile will appear above the alligator (swipe to the left from the home screen) to the right in the form of the selected picture.
Parental Control Menu – requires a password to access so the kids cant change whatever they want. I change mine every couple months so the kids don’t memorize the pattern.
Daily Playtime Limit – This will prevent the children from playing any more than you said they could. Once time is up, they have to bring the phone to you to give them more or decide it’s time to interact with real people again. The time can be changed in each profile separately.
Contacts – This is a new feature in kids mode that showed up with one of the last updates. If you swipe the home screen on kids mode to the right, it will open up an option to dial parent approved numbers with one touch. Initially, I was very excited by this concept. Then my 3 year olds called their grandmother 15 times while she was at work. So it will be a while before my children use this feature. But for the concerned parent of an older child, this option will allow them emergency contacts at the swipe of a screen and touch of a button.
Applications – This option allows you to select and deselect applications your children are allowed to use. So once you download the apps you wan,t you go into PARENTAL CONTROLS, choose APPS, hit the PLUS SIGN, and pick what your kids are allowed to play. Please remember that nothing, I repeat NOTHING, will let the kids out of kids mode without signing out with a password. So those nifty apps with the banners that you can find free… totally usable. You still want to check out every app you download for the kids to make sure you can use it and it is not a garbage app. Remember that most of these apps are designed to have you right next to the child, coaching them along. You have a tool, not a babysitter.
Media – This option allows you to choose what photos and videos your kids can look at. I make sure that our trips to the fair and other special events are always included. It seems kind of silly, but our kids love watching a video of me making bacon dipper pancakes. Just make sure you know what they are looking at. If you don’t want your kids looking at your photo gallery to begin with, please don’t just select ALL for the kids media section. They will also be able to copy, paste, and doodle on the picture they put in to the drawing app. Really, it is just super nifty
Music – The ability to add tracks from your music selection. This is also a new feature from the last few updates. There are definitely ups and downs to this feature. On the upside, it is very easy to add songs. While the song is playing, your child can choose from an assortment of instruments on the screen and play along with the song. The down side: you can’t start a song and pick a different activity. They can only listen or listen and play along. Also, if your music has foul language in it, don’t be surprised if your kids start using it. Please keep it classy.
Sticker Charts – Sticker charts are new as well. This allows you to set up reward charts. When the child does something that provides them with a “sticker,” you go into PARENTAL CONTROLS, pick STICKER CHARTS, and tap on the next number in line. Then, when the kids get the device back and they swipe to the left, they will see a treasure chest above the alligator to the left.
Kids Store – Kids store came in the first major update and is my least favorite feature/control option. The kids store is an app off the home page that comes standard with the kids mode app. You cannot remove it. I know, I tried. Anyway, this is the parent version of the kids store they can access on the app. This allows you to see what they decided they wanted and put on the wishlist. It is not possible for the kids to download anything from the store, but they can definitely add as many apps to the wishlist as they want. The Kid store does not have a ton of apps. In fact, it has one of the smallest collections of kids apps I have come across. The store is very easy to navigate, and you can search the apps by age rating or types of apps. A lot of the apps are in-app purchase. If it says book, you better believe your paying for each story. I usually don’t even open this app and continue to search for the best kids games and learning tools on the Google Play Store or Amazon App Store.
Settings – Kids mode has very few actual settings, as most everything is controlled by parental controls. However, there are a few very important features:
*Block back key – reduces risk your kids will accidentally back out of a game or teaching app and cause some level of really loud complaint. This is especially good for the really little ones.
*Change PIN – Like I said, I change mine regularly so the kids don’t memorize the actions if not the numbers.
*Storage Location – Every picture your child draws can be saved. Use this option to save to the phone or the external storage device. I use the SD card. My kids draw a lot of pictures.
*Check For Updates – I have yet to see kids mode update on it’s own or tell me it needed an update, so I check it every couple of months
So that’s all the stuff we can change in the grown up section. Now we can talk about the main app itself. The home screen is interactive. The background (which cannot be changed) is a beach scene with the clouds floating by. As it gets later in the day, the sun starts to set. At night, there are a moon and stars instead of the sun. If you tap on the beach scene, you get little animations.
7 apps come stock with kids mode:
- Sound Recorder
- Music Player
- Media Player
- Photo Gallery
- Kids Store
These are all very self explanatory, but I will remind you two things. 1) Music, media, and apps can only be used if you add them. 2) Change your device storage if you can. Kids take a lot of pictures and videos as well as make a ton of drawings.
Swipe to the left from the home screen and you get the alligator and clock. The alligator is interactive. When you see him thinking of a new outfit, tap the thought bubble. You can choose an assortment of alternate costume selections, including color of the alligator and outfits. My youngest played with this feature the most before he started getting the hang of the apps themselves.
The clock displays the correct time according to the internal clock. Also on this screen, you will see the sticker chart icon (treasure chest) and the picture of the selected profile.
For the most part, anything else after this is user based. Download approved apps and add them, then they will be presented as a “Present.” The kids tap the new present, and it turns into an APP. The Home screen can hold thirty apps, but you have to scroll up to see them all.
I have a few final things to add about this app.
SD Card – If you remove your SD Card, there is a good chance you will have to add the media, photos, music, and apps back onto kids mode, but only if they were on external storage to begin with.
Power of Paid Apps – Our goal is to spend as little money as possible. With that said, you get what you pay for with apps. So every once in a while, buy an app that will benefit your child. Or use the sticker chart to make a goal for a good app for the kids to play with.
This part is easy for me to do, and I believe I will be reviewing some of these apps in the future, but here is a quick list of the best free apps i have found for kids.
- Duplo Anything- Duplo has a great series of easy kids games. I believe there are four or five option, but i can honestly say I haven’t found one the kids don’t like.
- Toca Kitchen 1 and 2 – If you have the Amazon Appstore, keep an eye out for the Paid TOCA games. They are all fun and amazing, but even the free ones keep up a good par.
- YouTube Kids- Imagine YouTube with nothing offensive. That pretty much sums up this app. Easy to navigate and filled with kid friendly videos. I even searched for offensive stuff and it won’t come up. I can write a pretty hearty review of this app, so i will save it for another time
Quick side note to parents: Watch your WIFI and Data connections, especially with YouTube Kids. It only takes a few hours of YouTube to burn through a month’s worth of data.
Finally, the Biggest issue with this app is it is only available on Samsung Devices. Honestly, I would recommend this option over any kids tablet unless it was a Samsung. Unfortunately, the app does not prevent your child from spiking the phone off the pavement, but you never have to worry about your kids messing with any of your personal information or settings.