No matter how much adoration parents have for their children, sometimes distraction is necessary. Every mom and dad can use a break now and then. Whether it's during a road trip, inside a waiting room or just at home, smartphones and tablets afford parents the option, and responsibility, of downloading entertaining and educational mobile apps for their kids.
Here are five apps that do one, the other or both.
Math BINGO(iOS, Android; 99 cents)
Your kids are begging for your smartphone, so why not give them something educational to play? The Math BINGO app is a savvy place to start. Everybody loves a rousing game of bingo, and this app sprinkles mathematics into the fun to keep it interesting and educational. Plus, you can create different profiles for each of your children, which might save you from some of those annoying sibling squabbles over whose game belongs to whom.Tongue Tied!(iOS $1.99; Android 99 cents)
With 80 levels and 33 challenges, it will take your rug rats a while to bust through Tongue Tied! The game follows two adorable dogs with huge tongues, Mike and Ralph, as they search for the elusive "Wonderbone." It's a game of physics, and the dogs have to hang and swing through the obstacles they face along their journey. Now there's an inherent lesson on teamwork!
Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App!
Simply put, pigeons are funny. We are not really sure why, but it may have something to do with the way they walk, eat garbage and exhibit superstitious behavior. With the adorably fun app children can create silly stories simply by shaking their iDevice. It's an interactive app with a learning component that is too cute to pass up. Kids of all ages will get a kick out of this animated, interactive and fully customizable storytelling app.
FingerFace(iOS; 99 cents)
Finger puppets are so yesterday. Your kids will have hours of fun dressing up photos of their own fingers with hair, lips, eyes and more. FingerFace will occupy tons of time in the car while traveling or in the house on a rainy day. Your children can create a finger photo of how your family will dress during vacation and other occasions. You can even share photos via Instagram and other social networks. Grandma will sure get a kick out of a finger photo text.
Weird But True!(iOS; $1.99)
Who doesn't love a good game of "Did you know?" while on a road trip? Plug your kids into the weird-but-true app for some zany and smart kid-friendly facts. You can sift through facts like "cats communicate using at least 16 known 'cat words' " or that people can "buy watermelons shaped like pyramids" in Japan, all accompanied by relevant images. Developed by National Geographic, this educational and trivia-rich app can keep kids and adults busy and entertained all at the same time.
Tribune Media Services
Apps misread skin-cancer risk
For many busy smartphone users, apps are virtual life savers. But apps that gauge skin cancer risk may put your life in danger. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center looked at four apps that assess skin-cancer risk and found they classified 30 percent or more of actual melanomas as "unconcerning." Researchers said reliance on the apps instead of seeking medical help could delay treatment and harm users.
Windows 8 deal ending
If you've been thinking of upgrading to Windows 8, time is money. Users of Windows 7, Vista and XP can upgrade for $39.99 until Jan. 31. After that, the price rises to $199.99. Those who bought a new computer between June 2, 2012, and January 31, 2013, with a preinstalled version of Windows 7, can upgrade to Windows 8 for $14.99 until Feb. 28.
A billion views of "Gangnam Style" has meant millions for Google. Nikesh Arora, the search giant's chief business officer, told analysts during Google's earnings conference call Jan. 22 the viral video by South Korean rapper Psy "generated over $8 million" in revenue for Google-owned YouTube. "Gangnam Style" hit a billion views last month, the first YouTube video to ever pass that milestone.
-- Peter King