Grandparents can have app fun with kids

As part of your routine of getting your As part of your routine of getting your home kid-safe for when grandchildren visit, think about your tablet. Photo Credit: Handout

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For those who have embraced high tech, be prepared for small fingers.

Tablets and smartphones are becoming essential tools in the lives of many older adults. The devices can also be an essential tool in forging a closer relationship with perhaps the most important part of your lives: grandchildren. As part of your routine of getting your home kid-safe for when grandchildren visit, think about your tablet. Just handing over your iPad without getting it kid-ready is asking for trouble.

For example, consider this scenario: You download a free app that your 5-year-old grandson requested. But some free apps come with a heavy price -- "in-app" purchases. Earlier this year, a 5-year-old British boy using his parents' iPad quickly rang up about $2,500 in in-app purchases while playing a "free" game.

"It's mind-boggling how much money they're trying to charge for in-app purchases," says Jinny Gudmundsen, kid-tech columnist for USA Today and author of "iPad Apps for Kids for Dummies" (Wiley, $20). "Grandparents are probably not that keyed into this."

In her book, which is aimed at parents and grandparents, Gudmundsen reviews more than 200 apps, sorted by categories and age-appropriateness. The book also has advice on how adults can set up their iPads to prevent an array of kid-caused mayhem.

First stop: the "Enable Restrictions" menu. "It enables parental controls -- or, in this case, grandparental controls," Gudmundsen says. Here, you can turn off in-app purchases and select guidelines for the type of content that can be downloaded or accessed. You also can prohibit downloading music with "explicit" lyrics.

After you set restrictions and ground rules, it's time to unlock the inter- generational fun. One of Gudmundsen's favorite apps is Alien Assignment. The free game, from the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College, is especially fun for grandparents with young grandkids. "The child is asked to go find something and then they bring it back to the grandparent, so that the grandparent gets to be a part of the process," Gudmundsen says.

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She also likes "Toontastic Jr." ($1.99). Best part of this app: If both you and your grandchild have iPads, you can play together, whether your grandkid is on your lap or in Lapland. "They create stories together where Grandpa does the sound of one character and the child does the sound of the other," Gudmundsen says. "And they're doing it together, even though they're hundreds or thousands of miles apart."

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