As parents and children whisk into school mode this August, many mobile applications aim to help parents.
We all have our favorites: According to a recent online survey by U.S. Cellular in 527 online interviews among its users, half said they used educational activities on a mobile device with their children — of those, 33 percent for math, 22 percent for reading and 20 percent for preschool learning.
Here is an assortment of apps that might be worth checking out in different categories. Email me with your favorites, and I may use them in another column.
Before you download anything else, start with the School Connect app for your iPhone or Android device. It's often listed as SchConnect, and it's free, thanks to the Norman-based developer's partnership with Jostens to fill out this robust app.
If your school district is using the app, too, it is a great way to get notifications about district happenings, see grades, get lunch menus, learn about the day's events and connect to the district in many ways. Nearly 150 districts in Oklahoma are using it, and other states are catching on as well. Updated in July, the SchConnect app now lets you get school bus weather notifications and create separate user accounts, among other new features.
Users select the district, and then the school their child attends. They can select more than one school and receive multiple notifications.
Last year, I used it extensively and got notifications like canceled meetings or weather closings faster on it than other sources, like email.
Keep tabs on kids
I've received email pitches from several apps that let parents track their children's activities both online and offline. Individual mobile services offer their own apps specific to users, like U.S. Cellular's Family Protector App, but most are specific to the type of phone you are using.
Here are a few you might want to look into:
Bipper has a MobileKids app for all types of mobile devices — on Android or iPhones through respective app stores and at www.parent.mobilekids.com for the others, like BlackBerry or Windows. It's free to use with a cost for some premium features. Bipper's MobileKids app enables parents to monitor activity and set limits on a child's mobile phone use without eavesdropping on private conversations or combing through text messages, according to information from Bipper. Parents can learn what apps their children are downloading, contacts they are adding, etc. A child can activate SOS notifications when in dangerous situations, which alerts contacts where they are. Both the children and parents download apps to their own phones.