10 great apps for kids – and parents

Oo Gin Lee is a father of three school-going children and a former tech editor of The Straits Times. In this instalment of a bi-monthly series produced in collaboration with Singtel, he recommends useful apps for the family

1. MERRIAM-WEBSTER

Platform: iOS, Android 

Cost: Free (with ads), $6.98 (iOS premium version), $5.49 (Android premium version)   With both thesaurus and dictionary in one app, you can search for the meaning and synonyms of a word. You can even listen to how the word is pronounced and look at sample sentences for how it is used. The app also has fun word games and a neat word of the day feature to expand your vocabulary.



2. PLECO CHINESE DICTIONARY

 

Platform: Android

 

Cost: Free (basic version)

My two older kids grew up with this Chinese app, which lets them find the meaning of Chinese characters in English. Users can simply write the character strokes on the screen and a list of suggestions will appear to help them nail the right word. The Chinese dictionary offers examples of how the word can be used in its different forms as verbs and nouns, for instance. You can listen to the native pronunciation and there are examples of the word’s use in sentences. A cool paid add-on is the word-scanning feature (which costs $13.95) where you point your phone’s camera at the Chinese character and the app gives you the definition and pronunciation. There is an iOS version, but it has limited features in the free version.

3. QUSTODIO

 

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac

 

Cost: US$54.95 (S$72.40) for five devices annually, $5.90 a month for five devices (Singtel subscribers only)

 

This Swiss-Army knife of parental control software comes with Web filtering, app control, time scheduling, calls and SMS monitoring plus GPS location tracking. It even has a panic button which kids can hit on their smartphone to immediately send an SOS alert to parents, with the latest GPS location of the phone.

Parents can create individual profiles and set healthy screen and app time limits for each child, link multiple devices to each profile and check who is calling and texting the child to keep away unwelcome strangers or cyberbullies. As the app works in the background, it will not affect your child’s enjoyment of the devices. See Surf School sidebar for more details or go to www.singtel.com/surfschool


4. YOUTUBE KIDS

 

Platform: iOS, Android

 

Cost: Free

This is a curated version of YouTube that significantly reduces the chance of kids stumbling on inappropriate content. YouTube Kids lets them find what they are looking for fast. Parents can set individual profiles for each child so that age-appropriate content is shown. Parents can also turn off Search so that only recommended content on the home screen can be viewed. Voice search is a cool feature for kids like my seven-year-old, whose spelling abilities are still limited. A safer and easier way for kids to watch YouTube. And it is free.


5. THE CALCULATOR (by Impala Studios)

Platform: iOS

 

Cost: Free (with ads), $4.48 (premium version)

Basic functions aside, you can convert currencies and perform scientific calculations. Secondary school math students will love the additional scientific functions, which let them calculate tangents and logarithms. It also has tens of colour themes to choose from, which can be unlocked for free by watching a short advertisement. There is a similar-looking app on Android, but it feels less impressive as there is no currency conversion and you must pay to unlock the themes.


6. NOTANOOBIE

 

Platform: iOS, Android

 

Cost: Free

Developed by Singtel and Touch Cyber Wellness, this app is a collection of useful articles and tips for parents who want to find out more about cyber wellness and the latest digital trends affecting young people. There are many articles covering a wide variety of topics on video games, cyber-bullying, social media, mobile technology, inappropriate content and online privacy. The content is too basic for tech-savvy parents, but useful for those who no longer want to be a “noob” in matters of the virtual world.


7. KHAN ACADEMY

 

Platform: iOS, Android

 

Cost: Free

I first came across the YouTube videos of Khan Academy when I was trying to figure out the complex sub-prime financial crisis between 2007 and 2010. Today, Khan Academy also teaches science, maths, computing and history in addition to the original video lessons about economics. The app is free and contains a treasure trove of useful lessons, all in interactive video format. It is a great learning tool for students and adults alike.



8. GBOARD

 

Platform: iOS, Android

 

Cost: Free

Gboard is Google’s keyboard and you can install and use it instead of the default keyboard on your phone. It has Google Translate built in, so you can type WhatsApp messages, Facebook posts and just about any text message in English and have it automatically translated into more than 100 languages. Now, you can converse with your foreign friends in their local language or make your Chinese appear a lot more fluent than what it really is.


9. STORMBOUND

 

Platform: iOS, Android

 

Cost: Free-to-play

This strategy game works like chess and the battlefield is a 4x5 grid where you can place your combatants and cast spells to take out the enemy. There are four different deck archetypes to choose from, each with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The Winter Pact deck, for instance, contains the most powerful units, but requires a lot of mana to be played. Against a fast, low-mana deck such as the Swarm of the East, the Winter Pact needs to survive long enough to unleash its high-cost powerful minions. The clean graphics will appeal to kids and adults alike. It is great for family bonding when your child keeps beating you in duels.


10. PHOTOMATH

Platform: iOS, Android

 

Cost: Free

I wish this app existed in my school days. It lets students scan math equations and the app solves them, step by step. I got my 16-year-old to give it a spin and she could do differentiation, integration, logarithms and trigonometry. It does not understand words, though, so it does not work on problem sums.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE APP?

 

Tell us, in not more than 300 words, about your favourite app for your kids, why it is useful and how it has helped you and your child and win a set of three annual Qustodio licences from Singtel. Five sets will be given out at the end of this series for selected entries, which may be published in The Sunday Times. Send your entries, with the subject header “Family & Tech”, to stlife@sph.com.sg


Surf School

 

Singtel Surf School promotes cyber fun, safety and education. As part of this initiative, Singtel is offering a parental control app, Qustodio, at an exclusive rate of $5.90 a month for use on five devices (with no contract). Enjoy three months free with no contract with Singtel for a limited time.

 

Here are some of the features of Qustodio:

• Connects multiple devices and accounts to a unified Web dashboard for easy parental monitoring

• Works on PC, Mac, iOS and Android

• Web filtering automatically blocks inappropriate content from your child

• Safe Search hides inappropriate results when the child makes keyword searches in Google and YouTube

• You can schedule the hours and days when the child can have access to the Internet on the phone and/or the PC

• You can block specific apps from running if you feel the child is spending too much time on them

• Location tracking lets you find the last location of your child’s phone • Panic mode lets the child hit an SOS button which triggers an alert that is sent to your preset e-mail or phone number, with the last known location of the device. For more details, go to www.singtel.com/surfschool