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North Hills Monthly

Mobile Apps for Kids Put Safety First

Feb 26, 2016 05:41PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch
When Linda Thompson was a child, she had a tendency to wander off on her own, constantly scaring her mother, Rose. Fortunately, Linda was always found, but it prompted her mother to constantly drill her on safety rules.

Then Thompson had an idea—she created a game board called Street Smart Kidz, which she played with all three of her children when they were growing up. The goal was to teach her kids safe practices for living in the world.

“I needed to teach my youngest daughter to be street smart,” Rose Thompson said. “She was absolutely fearless.”

The original version of the game was made on white poster board; Thompson made question cards, tip cards and danger cards. “We’d play all the time,” recalled Thompson. “The more danger signs that came up, the more tip cards I’d make.”

And it worked.  Linda learned to stay by her mother’s side and became aware of everything going on around her; those lessons stayed with her as an adult. “Safety for kids is one of my main goals,” Linda Thompson said. “My primary focus is to get kids to be street smart, to empower them, and to empower families to start communicating.”

Rose, who lives in Valencia and has seven grandchildren, was encouraged by her daughter to turn the beloved family game into an app.  With the help of Zco Corporation in Nashua, NH, that dream became a reality. Still called Street Smart Kidz, the app is geared toward children ages 3-11 and makes learning about safety fun; it is available for download on iTunes and GooglePlay. 

The game provides kids with several dangerous scenarios in such categories as bullying, drugs, school, gun safety and fire safety; children move ahead in the game by answering questions correctly. If a child answers incorrectly, he or she “sits” in a thinking chair until they get it right the next time.

“It’s informative and will help kids become street smart in skillful and creative ways,” said Rose Thompson.

The daughter of Thompson’s former neighbor, Amy Aguglia of Gibsonia, used to play the original board game; now, her 11-year-old son plays the app version. Aguglia said that her son absolutely loves it and is learning from it. “It makes him aware of his surroundings, to make the right choices, and to think,” she said.

The app launched in November and is finding a receptive audience. In fact, Thompson demonstrated it recently at the Carnegie Science Center and was amazed by not only how much the children were fascinated by it but by how much basic safety knowledge many of them did not possess.

A welcome and intended effect of this video game is that it sparks conversations between parent and child. “Once you start playing the game and questions come up, you start thinking of your own questions,” said Rose Thompson.

“We can protect our children as much as we can, but we also need to trust them, and if they don’t understand what they’re getting into when they’re walking out the door, I think there’s a problem,” she added.

“It’s such a straightforward, simple game, but the information is so valuable,” said Linda Thompson, who does marketing for Street Smart Kidz. “It instills kids to become leaders and to make the correct decisions.”

The current version can be purchased for $1.99; a bundle, with scenarios and questions, is an additional 99 cents.

SocialSource has developed an app that focuses on content safety called Phew!, which gives parents the ability to choose and share age-appropriate content on YouTube and other websites.

Cofounder Lee Loughnane of California is the father of four young children. “The situation that we’re solving is that kids have been given an adult Internet; there is no kids’ library in the Internet,” said Loughnane.

As the Internet is in a constant state of flux, he said, old-world parental controls can’t handle the massive data available on the World Wide Web, especially on YouTube, which handles 10,000 new uploads every day.

His solution is Phew!, the first (and to date, only) mobile app that allows parents to rate and curate Internet content for their children. A community of parents previews content and puts an age rating on it; app users then set up personalized profiles for their children, who then see an Internet targeted just for their age group.

“We are giving parents the ability to take back their parenting role; parents are curating a collection of good content,” Loughnane said.

“YouTube is so massive; 300 hours of YouTube programming is uploaded per minute around the world,” he added. In less than three clicks from something as innocent as a Barney video on YouTube, a young child can become exposed to something unsuitable.

“Our kids are forming opinions about themselves and the world from people that they don’t even know. Phew! Is giving power back to the parent,” said Loughnane.

Currently the app, which is free to download, has received stellar feedback from users; it is available through Apple only (