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5 Fun Online Activities That Give Kids a Confidence Boost

How to Build Confidence in Kids

Is your child a little shy? Do they suffer from a lack of self-esteem? It’s a difficult time to be a child. With so many distractions, it can be easy to put personal relationships on the back burner.  Children can dive down a black hole into the internet void, spend countless hours completing video game campaigns, and plug into the virtual world.

While they’re doing this, they can tune out others and lose grasp of meaningful relationships. Once these relationships disappear, the impact can translate into other realms of your child’s life. They may lose the confidence to talk freely and openly to others or second guess their ability to do well in other aspects of their life such as schoolwork. 

Sometimes the internet, a place designed to connect individuals across the globe, can feel daunting and dividing. When this transposes itself into ordinary life, it can become a problem and a burden. That is why I put together a list of online activities that stray from the gloom and doom and promote healthy habits and elevate self-esteem. 

Afterschool Gaming Clubs

Does your child’s school offer after school programming? If they do, odds are that they may have a program specific to online gaming or video game creation. If not, then try checking out local community centers. If all else fails, these resources will help you create your own after school program. 

These types of clubs are becoming more and more prevalent and can create a sense of community with your child. Not all kids are into sports or art. These clubs are the perfect option for the video game obsessed youth and can offer more than just a community of fellow gamers. Some clubs dive into video game creation and actually allow the students to create their own games, teaching meaningful skills while enjoying games with peers. This sense of community can be extremely important for boosting the learning and the self-esteem of your child. 

Educational Games 

Online educational games are not only fun, but they can provide your child with the confidence necessary to speak up in class. Kids are much more likely to raise their hand and participate when they have background knowledge on the topic. These educational games are the perfect way to get something out of time spent online.

There are tons of online educators out there. It is only a matter of knowing where to search to find the organizations that have put together games meant to further learning. For tips on refining your search for the perfect program, take a look at this helpful resource.

If you simply want a highly reputable site to try out, check out this list of online educational games.

Kid-Friendly Social Media Sites

Social media is a scary place, even for adults. But, there are platforms out there specifically for kids. At first you may think that this sounds like a terrible idea and an easy way for strangers to interact with your child. But, these sites take safety seriously. Unlike the Myspace and Facebook’s of the world, these sites are focused on safety and provide a great introduction to social media for kids of various ages.

Most of these sites allow parents to control their child’s overall usage and monitor their accounts. This means that your child can enjoy the interaction with peers, while you assure they don’t go overboard with it. Some sites are extremely basic and only offer the simplest of features, while some are in-depth and showcase some top-notch safety features, such as required background checks. It may be best to monitor your child’s presence on these sites at first, but eventually these social media sites should provide your child with communication skills that will transfer to the real world. 

Geocaching

Have you heard of geocaching? This is a great activity for young kids to do with the rest of the family or a wholesome activity for older kids to take part in with friends. Not only does this activity get you outside, but through their easy to use app you join an online community of treasure hunters.

So, what is geocaching? Geocaching utilizes GPS coordinates to show the locations of various geocaches (containers/treasure chests). Individuals then navigate to the geocache and find hidden goods. There are several different categories of geocaches that keep the search interesting every time. You can solve a puzzle to discover coordinates or find geocaches specific to major landmarks. This interactive community allows you to utilize your online skills to navigate the real world. 

While it is great for children to be outside exploring, it can also be very stressful for a parent. If you have older children and want to keep track of their whereabouts while they’re out and about exploring, then I suggest investing in a GPS-based tracker to ease your worries. 

iNaturalist

This is an environmentally-focused parent’s best friend. Not only does this app (also web-based) offer the opportunity to learn about different species, but similar to geocaching, it also gets kids outside. Look out for something called a “bioblitz” in your area. The National Park System, as well as numerous State Park Systems and non-profits hold these events to gather as many observations as possible in a specific period of time. For instance, while I worked for Tennessee State Parks, we developed a statewide bioblitz and created a variety of family-friendly programming around the event. This can be a great way to get out with the family and explore an area otherwise not accessible. 

The feeling of discovery can be a tremendous joy for children and adults alike. By discovering different plant and animal species, children learn about the natural world and increase their observational skills. This can translate directly to social and academic situations. According to childrensmuseums.org, “The informal understanding children gain through experimentation, observation, and comparison in play lays the foundation for higher-order thinking and later learning of formal STEM concepts”. For more information on iNaturalist and how it can benefit your child’s learning check out their site

Conclusion

Regardless of which avenue you and your child take, the most important thing for improving self-esteem is the feeling of inclusion. These activities provide a community for your child to become a part of and share experiences. Those experiences will help define your child as an individual and grant them an identity to believe in. Hopefully, after discovering themselves and learning to believe in their abilities, your children will transfer this new, increased self-esteem into every aspect of their lives. So, get them involved and start building those memories.

Author Bio: Chandler Clayton is a freelance writer, specializing in education and safety. He draws upon his years of teaching environmental education to empower learning in children and adults of all backgrounds. He has been featured on sites such as SafeWise, USA Today, and Newsday.

Is your child a little shy? Do they suffer from a lack of self-esteem? It’s a difficult time to be a child. With so many distractions, it can be easy to put personal relationships on the back burner.  Children can dive down a black hole into the internet void, spend countless hours completing video game campaigns, and plug into the virtual world.

While they’re doing this, they can tune out others and lose grasp of meaningful relationships. Once these relationships disappear, the impact can translate into other realms of your child’s life. They may lose the confidence to talk freely and openly to others or second guess their ability to do well in other aspects of their life such as schoolwork. 

Sometimes the internet, a place designed to connect individuals across the globe, can feel daunting and dividing. When this transposes itself into ordinary life, it can become a problem and a burden. That is why I put together a list of online activities that stray from the gloom and doom and promote healthy habits and elevate self-esteem. 

Afterschool Gaming Clubs

Does your child’s school offer after school programming? If they do, odds are that they may have a program specific to online gaming or video game creation. If not, then try checking out local community centers. If all else fails, these resources will help you create your own after school program. 

These types of clubs are becoming more and more prevalent and can create a sense of community with your child. Not all kids are into sports or art. These clubs are the perfect option for the video game obsessed youth and can offer more than just a community of fellow gamers. Some clubs dive into video game creation and actually allow the students to create their own games, teaching meaningful skills while enjoying games with peers. This sense of community can be extremely important for boosting the learning and the self-esteem of your child. 

Educational Games 

Online educational games are not only fun, but they can provide your child with the confidence necessary to speak up in class. Kids are much more likely to raise their hand and participate when they have background knowledge on the topic. These educational games are the perfect way to get something out of time spent online.

There are tons of online educators out there. It is only a matter of knowing where to search to find the organizations that have put together games meant to further learning. For tips on refining your search for the perfect program, take a look at this helpful resource.

If you simply want a highly reputable site to try out, check out this list of online educational games.

Kid-Friendly Social Media Sites

Social media is a scary place, even for adults. But, there are platforms out there specifically for kids. At first you may think that this sounds like a terrible idea and an easy way for strangers to interact with your child. But, these sites take safety seriously. Unlike the Myspace and Facebook’s of the world, these sites are focused on safety and provide a great introduction to social media for kids of various ages.

Most of these sites allow parents to control their child’s overall usage and monitor their accounts. This means that your child can enjoy the interaction with peers, while you assure they don’t go overboard with it. Some sites are extremely basic and only offer the simplest of features, while some are in-depth and showcase some top-notch safety features, such as required background checks. It may be best to monitor your child’s presence on these sites at first, but eventually these social media sites should provide your child with communication skills that will transfer to the real world. 

Geocaching

Have you heard of geocaching? This is a great activity for young kids to do with the rest of the family or a wholesome activity for older kids to take part in with friends. Not only does this activity get you outside, but through their easy to use app you join an online community of treasure hunters.

So, what is geocaching? Geocaching utilizes GPS coordinates to show the locations of various geocaches (containers/treasure chests). Individuals then navigate to the geocache and find hidden goods. There are several different categories of geocaches that keep the search interesting every time. You can solve a puzzle to discover coordinates or find geocaches specific to major landmarks. This interactive community allows you to utilize your online skills to navigate the real world. 

While it is great for children to be outside exploring, it can also be very stressful for a parent. If you have older children and want to keep track of their whereabouts while they’re out and about exploring, then I suggest investing in a GPS-based tracker to ease your worries. 

iNaturalist

This is an environmentally-focused parent’s best friend. Not only does this app (also web-based) offer the opportunity to learn about different species, but similar to geocaching, it also gets kids outside. Look out for something called a “bioblitz” in your area. The National Park System, as well as numerous State Park Systems and non-profits hold these events to gather as many observations as possible in a specific period of time. For instance, while I worked for Tennessee State Parks, we developed a statewide bioblitz and created a variety of family-friendly programming around the event. This can be a great way to get out with the family and explore an area otherwise not accessible. 

The feeling of discovery can be a tremendous joy for children and adults alike. By discovering different plant and animal species, children learn about the natural world and increase their observational skills. This can translate directly to social and academic situations. According to childrensmuseums.org, “The informal understanding children gain through experimentation, observation, and comparison in play lays the foundation for higher-order thinking and later learning of formal STEM concepts”. For more information on iNaturalist and how it can benefit your child’s learning check out their site

Conclusion

Regardless of which avenue you and your child take, the most important thing for improving self-esteem is the feeling of inclusion. These activities provide a community for your child to become a part of and share experiences. Those experiences will help define your child as an individual and grant them an identity to believe in. Hopefully, after discovering themselves and learning to believe in their abilities, your children will transfer this new, increased self-esteem into every aspect of their lives. So, get them involved and start building those memories.

Author Bio: Chandler Clayton is a freelance writer, specializing in education and safety. He draws upon his years of teaching environmental education to empower learning in children and adults of all backgrounds. He has been featured on sites such as SafeWise, USA Today, and Newsday.

Online Summer Safety Tips for Kids

Summer Fun

School’s out, and that means your kids have lots of time free to spend online chatting, making plans with friends, and posting fun summertime photos—sometimes without you there to supervise. If that gives you anxiety, fear not. Here are four steps that will keep keep your child safe online this summer.

1. Set Rules for Responsible Use

Sit down with your children and talk frankly about why you care about their online safety, covering big topics like cyberbullying or identity theft in a way that matches their maturity level. Then work together to define clear, understandable rules for their online interactions. Here are a few basics to consider:

  • Never post personal info like addresses and phone numbers on social media.
  • Avoid location check-ins and photo geo-tagging, which can be used to track where you are as well as when you are away from home.
  • Be wary of free games and other goodies, which can infect your devices with malware. Keep security software up to date and scan everything before downloading.
  • Use secure passwords and protect them. There are several password managers out there that can generate strong passwords and store them all in one place.

Once you’ve agreed upon the ground rules, put them into a contract to be signed by everyone in the family.

2. Follow Your Own Rules

This is an important follow-up to the previous rule. You want your kids not to text or go online after 10 p.m.? Shut down your phone and laptop at the same time.

Don’t want them posting embarrassing photos of you? Let them veto pictures they may not be happy with you sharing on social media, too.

If you can adhere to the rules you and your kids built together, they will feel more inclined to do so as well.

3. Build Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills

In a world abounding with fake news, help your kids think critically about any content they find online. Encourage older kids especially to fact-check stories before reposting on Facebook or commenting on Twitter.

Teach them to question their own motives as well. Just because a comment will generate a lot of likes, that doesn’t mean they should post it. Even one poorly chosen post can cause problems down the line.

The Family Online Safety Institute has also developed a checklist that includes reminders to remove and untag unwanted posts, and to “accentuate the positive” by posting upbeat content.

4. Let Your Kids Know You Will Still Monitor Online Usage

Finally, let your kids know that you may occasionally check up on their activity. Being upfront about your plans to look at their browser history and monitor their Facebook account will establish a sense of trust and keep them accountable.

For young kids who need a bit more oversight, there are plenty of helpful apps available to let you keep an eye on them. Older kids and teens may not need (or want) as much monitoring, so for them, you may be able to check in less often. To really emphasize trust, you can even ask them to put their passwords into a piggy bank for use only in an emergency.

The internet can be a great resource for helping kids learn and be social during their school-free summer months, and following the steps listed here will help them do so smartly, responsibly, and safely.

School’s out, and that means your kids have lots of time free to spend online chatting, making plans with friends, and posting fun summertime photos—sometimes without you there to supervise. If that gives you anxiety, fear not. Here are four steps that will keep keep your child safe online this summer.

1. Set Rules for Responsible Use

Sit down with your children and talk frankly about why you care about their online safety, covering big topics like cyberbullying or identity theft in a way that matches their maturity level. Then work together to define clear, understandable rules for their online interactions. Here are a few basics to consider:

  • Never post personal info like addresses and phone numbers on social media.
  • Avoid location check-ins and photo geo-tagging, which can be used to track where you are as well as when you are away from home.
  • Be wary of free games and other goodies, which can infect your devices with malware. Keep security software up to date and scan everything before downloading.
  • Use secure passwords and protect them. There are several password managers out there that can generate strong passwords and store them all in one place.

Once you’ve agreed upon the ground rules, put them into a contract to be signed by everyone in the family.

2. Follow Your Own Rules

This is an important follow-up to the previous rule. You want your kids not to text or go online after 10 p.m.? Shut down your phone and laptop at the same time.

Don’t want them posting embarrassing photos of you? Let them veto pictures they may not be happy with you sharing on social media, too.

If you can adhere to the rules you and your kids built together, they will feel more inclined to do so as well.

3. Build Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills

In a world abounding with fake news, help your kids think critically about any content they find online. Encourage older kids especially to fact-check stories before reposting on Facebook or commenting on Twitter.

Teach them to question their own motives as well. Just because a comment will generate a lot of likes, that doesn’t mean they should post it. Even one poorly chosen post can cause problems down the line.

The Family Online Safety Institute has also developed a checklist that includes reminders to remove and untag unwanted posts, and to “accentuate the positive” by posting upbeat content.

4. Let Your Kids Know You Will Still Monitor Online Usage

Finally, let your kids know that you may occasionally check up on their activity. Being upfront about your plans to look at their browser history and monitor their Facebook account will establish a sense of trust and keep them accountable.

For young kids who need a bit more oversight, there are plenty of helpful apps available to let you keep an eye on them. Older kids and teens may not need (or want) as much monitoring, so for them, you may be able to check in less often. To really emphasize trust, you can even ask them to put their passwords into a piggy bank for use only in an emergency.

The internet can be a great resource for helping kids learn and be social during their school-free summer months, and following the steps listed here will help them do so smartly, responsibly, and safely.

A Guide to Removing Malware from Your Child’s Computer

Removing Malware from your Child's Computer

Malware is a term to describe viruses, worms, and other malicious software used to gain access to sensitive information or interfere with a computer’s performance. Do you suspect malicious software has infiltrated your child’s computer? You’re not alone.

It’s estimated that thousands of new malware files get released every day, increasing your child’s likelihood of coming across one of these programs. Keep reading to learn how to identify and remove it.

Evidence of Malware

Your child’s computer may have a virus if you notice any of the following malware warning signs:

  • The computer is running slower than normal
  • The computer crashes often
  • Your child sees an increase in pop-up messages
  • The hard drive storage is suddenly full
  • The browser has a different homepage or new toolbars
  • The computer has new software programs, or programs start on their own
  • You can hear the device’s hard drive fan working constantly

It’s worth noting that while PCs are more susceptible to malware, Mac computers can get viruses as well, so be on the lookout no matter which type of device your kids use.

How to Remove Malware

Step 1: Disconnect from the Internet and Activate Safe Mode

If you suspect your child’s computer is infected with malware, the first thing you should do is disconnect from the internet. This will prevent your data from being sent to the malware server or the malware from spreading.

Next, safe boot the computer. For PCs with Windows 10, open the power menu and hold the Shift key while clicking “Restart.” From there, select “Troubleshoot,” then “Advanced options,” and then “Startup settings,” which will give you the option to restart and select Safe Mode.

For Macs, restart the computer, press the Shift key after you hear the startup noise, and hold it until the login page loads.

Step 2: Delete Temporary Files

While in Safe Mode, delete any temporary files using the Disk Cleanup tool on PC, or by emptying the ~/Library/Cache folder on Mac. By deleting these files, the computer will be able to scan for a virus more quickly (and you’ll potentially get rid of any files that may have been harboring malware).

Step 3: Use a Malware Scanner

Ideally you would have a real-time malware scanner running constantly to catch malware before it takes hold, but if something got through, you can do a deeper on-demand scan. Restart the computer to exit Safe Mode, or else the scanning program won’t be able to run.

If you don’t have a usable anti-malware program, reboot to exit Safe Mode so you can download one. After installing the program, perform a scan of your child’s computer—this should flag and remove any malicious programs.

Note: If the malware prevents you from running a scan, you may need to restore to an old system backup, from before the malware was on the device.

Step 4: Undo Any Damage

Malware may try to alter the current web browser’s homepage, so check your domain and connection settings.

It’s also possible that you’ll need to recover or reinstall files and software that were lost. It’s important to regularly back up files in case a malicious software tries to attack your child’s computer.

Step 5: Improve Device Security

It’s easier to prevent malware than to remove it, so set your anti-malware software to run regular scans. Make sure any software is up to date, too, and reset any passwords that could’ve been compromised by the malicious program.

Step 6: Educate Your Child

Proactively teach your children the common signs of malware listed above. Set up guidelines for your children when they’re using the computer, and encourage them to ask an adult before visiting new sites or downloading anything.

While you may not always be able to avoid malware from infecting your child’s computer, you can work with them to better prevent it. Prepare your kids to use technology safely, and you’ll set them up for good online habits for the rest of their lives.

Malware is a term to describe viruses, worms, and other malicious software used to gain access to sensitive information or interfere with a computer’s performance. Do you suspect malicious software has infiltrated your child’s computer? You’re not alone.

It’s estimated that thousands of new malware files get released every day, increasing your child’s likelihood of coming across one of these programs. Keep reading to learn how to identify and remove it.

Evidence of Malware

Your child’s computer may have a virus if you notice any of the following malware warning signs:

  • The computer is running slower than normal
  • The computer crashes often
  • Your child sees an increase in pop-up messages
  • The hard drive storage is suddenly full
  • The browser has a different homepage or new toolbars
  • The computer has new software programs, or programs start on their own
  • You can hear the device’s hard drive fan working constantly

It’s worth noting that while PCs are more susceptible to malware, Mac computers can get viruses as well, so be on the lookout no matter which type of device your kids use.

How to Remove Malware

Step 1: Disconnect from the Internet and Activate Safe Mode

If you suspect your child’s computer is infected with malware, the first thing you should do is disconnect from the internet. This will prevent your data from being sent to the malware server or the malware from spreading.

Next, safe boot the computer. For PCs with Windows 10, open the power menu and hold the Shift key while clicking “Restart.” From there, select “Troubleshoot,” then “Advanced options,” and then “Startup settings,” which will give you the option to restart and select Safe Mode.

For Macs, restart the computer, press the Shift key after you hear the startup noise, and hold it until the login page loads.

Step 2: Delete Temporary Files

While in Safe Mode, delete any temporary files using the Disk Cleanup tool on PC, or by emptying the ~/Library/Cache folder on Mac. By deleting these files, the computer will be able to scan for a virus more quickly (and you’ll potentially get rid of any files that may have been harboring malware).

Step 3: Use a Malware Scanner

Ideally you would have a real-time malware scanner running constantly to catch malware before it takes hold, but if something got through, you can do a deeper on-demand scan. Restart the computer to exit Safe Mode, or else the scanning program won’t be able to run.

If you don’t have a usable anti-malware program, reboot to exit Safe Mode so you can download one. After installing the program, perform a scan of your child’s computer—this should flag and remove any malicious programs.

Note: If the malware prevents you from running a scan, you may need to restore to an old system backup, from before the malware was on the device.

Step 4: Undo Any Damage

Malware may try to alter the current web browser’s homepage, so check your domain and connection settings.

It’s also possible that you’ll need to recover or reinstall files and software that were lost. It’s important to regularly back up files in case a malicious software tries to attack your child’s computer.

Step 5: Improve Device Security

It’s easier to prevent malware than to remove it, so set your anti-malware software to run regular scans. Make sure any software is up to date, too, and reset any passwords that could’ve been compromised by the malicious program.

Step 6: Educate Your Child

Proactively teach your children the common signs of malware listed above. Set up guidelines for your children when they’re using the computer, and encourage them to ask an adult before visiting new sites or downloading anything.

While you may not always be able to avoid malware from infecting your child’s computer, you can work with them to better prevent it. Prepare your kids to use technology safely, and you’ll set them up for good online habits for the rest of their lives.

An Introduction to Smart Speakers for Kids and Parents

Smart Hubs for Kids

Smart hubs. Smart speakers. Smart Assistants. Alexa, Siri, Google Home… These home automation gadgets go by many names, but together they have one major thing in common — they provide a service that is growing in demand and quality by the day. But parents may start to question the impact it might have on their kids.

Are smart speakers safe for kids to use freely? What are your options for controlling what your little ones see and hear? Can these actually be used in a way that will benefit both you and your child?

Luckily, developers are hearing these concerns and taking action. Many parents today find that smart hubs are becoming a useful and fun part of their everyday lives.

So,if you’re considering buying one for your own home, here are some tips to help get you started in your search for the best fit for you and your family.

What are your options?

The three main smart speakers on the market today are provided by Amazon (aka The Echo, or Alexa), Google (Google Home), and Apple (otherwise known as the HomePod, which is powered by Siri).

Finding the best smart speaker for your family can mean many different things, depending on your budget and lifestyle. But for the sake of brevity, let’s go over the two most important factors for parents — features and compatibility.

Kid-friendly features, safe search settings, and parental controls

You might want to consider Googling each of the phrases above while you’re doing your research, as each device has so many different offerings.

Google Home, for example, has the Family Link app which allows you to create different profiles for each of your family members, which are identified by the sound of their voice. From there, you can adjust and personalize their settings, including what apps they access, when and how often they can access them, and even activate Google SafeSearch to ensure they are hearing only age-appropriate language and information — much like parental controls on the computer.

The Amazon Echo actually has a “kid’s mode,” wherein Alexa will tell silly jokes, play games, and teach good manners like encouraging them to say please and thank you. If you’re thinking about putting a speaker in your kid’s room, Amazon even has a device just for children called the Echo Dot Kids Edition.

Don’t limit your research to just kid features, though. Many of the most popular features are likely to be the ones you or your kids use most. From basic ones like the alarm clock, to the more advanced ones like Tile Tracker, which can help you find items that are frequently misplaced.

But all these features are changing on a daily basis — much like our cell phones, they get frequent software updates that will be available for both new and existing devices — and there are far too many to list in a single article, so remember this is just the tip of the iceberg. And that’s why you’ll want to do thorough research.

Compatibility with smartphones, computers, and smart home devices

Nowadays, most of us have smartphones and computers that we use daily. And many of us have developed a strong opinion as to what brand or interface we prefer. If you’re an avid Apple user, you’ll be happy to know that the HomePod will sync across all your devices with little effort on your end.

However, the HomePod isn’t the most popular or most compatible across other smart home devices you may want to integrate with, such as automated plugs, light-bulbs, or thermostats. But that’s likely because it’s much newer than the others, so that may change soon.

Even if this is your first time looking into a smart speaker, you don’t want to take compatibility for granted. It’s likely that the device will soon become part of your family’s routine, and you never how you might want to use it in the future.

This is not to encourage families to replace face-to-face time, however. While tech can bring convenience to our lives, it’s important to remember that nothing is more valuable to a child’s development than the time spent learning and socializing with others face-to-face. But as our lives get busier and busier, smart speakers can be a great way to help manage our time and perhaps even make more of it to be spent bonding with our loved ones.

By Andrea Harvey

Smart hubs. Smart speakers. Smart Assistants. Alexa, Siri, Google Home… These home automation gadgets go by many names, but together they have one major thing in common — they provide a service that is growing in demand and quality by the day. But parents may start to question the impact it might have on their kids.

Are smart speakers safe for kids to use freely? What are your options for controlling what your little ones see and hear? Can these actually be used in a way that will benefit both you and your child?

Luckily, developers are hearing these concerns and taking action. Many parents today find that smart hubs are becoming a useful and fun part of their everyday lives.

So,if you’re considering buying one for your own home, here are some tips to help get you started in your search for the best fit for you and your family.

What are your options?

The three main smart speakers on the market today are provided by Amazon (aka The Echo, or Alexa), Google (Google Home), and Apple (otherwise known as the HomePod, which is powered by Siri).

Finding the best smart speaker for your family can mean many different things, depending on your budget and lifestyle. But for the sake of brevity, let’s go over the two most important factors for parents — features and compatibility.

Kid-friendly features, safe search settings, and parental controls

You might want to consider Googling each of the phrases above while you’re doing your research, as each device has so many different offerings.

Google Home, for example, has the Family Link app which allows you to create different profiles for each of your family members, which are identified by the sound of their voice. From there, you can adjust and personalize their settings, including what apps they access, when and how often they can access them, and even activate Google SafeSearch to ensure they are hearing only age-appropriate language and information — much like parental controls on the computer.

The Amazon Echo actually has a “kid’s mode,” wherein Alexa will tell silly jokes, play games, and teach good manners like encouraging them to say please and thank you. If you’re thinking about putting a speaker in your kid’s room, Amazon even has a device just for children called the Echo Dot Kids Edition.

Don’t limit your research to just kid features, though. Many of the most popular features are likely to be the ones you or your kids use most. From basic ones like the alarm clock, to the more advanced ones like Tile Tracker, which can help you find items that are frequently misplaced.

But all these features are changing on a daily basis — much like our cell phones, they get frequent software updates that will be available for both new and existing devices — and there are far too many to list in a single article, so remember this is just the tip of the iceberg. And that’s why you’ll want to do thorough research.

Compatibility with smartphones, computers, and smart home devices

Nowadays, most of us have smartphones and computers that we use daily. And many of us have developed a strong opinion as to what brand or interface we prefer. If you’re an avid Apple user, you’ll be happy to know that the HomePod will sync across all your devices with little effort on your end.

However, the HomePod isn’t the most popular or most compatible across other smart home devices you may want to integrate with, such as automated plugs, light-bulbs, or thermostats. But that’s likely because it’s much newer than the others, so that may change soon.

Even if this is your first time looking into a smart speaker, you don’t want to take compatibility for granted. It’s likely that the device will soon become part of your family’s routine, and you never how you might want to use it in the future.

This is not to encourage families to replace face-to-face time, however. While tech can bring convenience to our lives, it’s important to remember that nothing is more valuable to a child’s development than the time spent learning and socializing with others face-to-face. But as our lives get busier and busier, smart speakers can be a great way to help manage our time and perhaps even make more of it to be spent bonding with our loved ones.

By Andrea Harvey