By Jennifer Smith

In this wonderful world of technology many of us parents are struggling with the battle against screen time for our children. In addition to televisions they now have access to video games, computers, cell phones and tablets. Decisions have to be made regarding the time spent on these devices and we also must make a choice of whether to allow them to submerge themselves into the outside world via the internet. Our biggest concern is whether these technology platforms can remain safe for their children. 

While there are several tablets on the market design for kids there are very few that are designed to grow with the child. Most are either just a learning tablet with limited features, or they are full functioning tablet with complete access to the internet and any app. The PBS Kids Safe Tablet is both and has addressed parents’ concerns without compromising the use of the product.

My son Jairod started out his technological journey with a basic learning tablet (I believe it was a Leapfrog Leapad or something similar).  It was nice having a device that didn’t require a Wi-Fi connection to use, but there was only so many games and features he really took to on the device, never really holding his attention for long. By the age of 3 my son received his first real tablet. Despite me downloading age-appropriate learning apps to the device, his favorite pastime shortly became watching YouTube videos. Oh, how he loved watching toy review videos. From that moment, it became a mix of “mommy turn on your hotspot” to “Mommy I want this toy I saw on Ryan’s toy review”.

When I received the PBS tablet and read more about its features, I was intrigued. 

When you first take the tablet out of the box you need to charge it to 100% before attempting to turn it on. Once this charging is complete you turn it on, the Wi-Fi connection screen should come up immediately following the loading screen. After you are connected to the internet you must set up the device with a parental email and password. You’ll want to make sure the password is something you’ll easily remember or write it down somewhere because you will use the password for everything in the device.

Note: your email must be verified within 30 days following the initial sign in, or the playtime pad will lock the device and your email will be erased from their record.

Next you must verify your age by either the e-mail verification sent to you or by paying $0.50 with a debit or credit card. Then you create your child’s profile.

After the setup process was completed, which took only 5 to 10 minutes, it is time for Jairod and I to explore this new tablet together.

Naturally the first thing I was interested in was what sort of parental guidelines I could set up. By going into the parental dashboard, I was able to control what apps he could access on the playtime mode. And importantly I could also set the time limit controls. 

I think the time limit controls are one of my favorite features because not only can you set daily usage time limits, you can also set limits on the time frame in which they’re allowed to be used. For example, I have Jairod’s timeframe usage ending at 9 p.m. every night. His bedtime is 9:30 p.m. but he likes to try and sneak his tablet into bed with him. Thanks to this time cut-off the tablet will lock and cannot be used outside of the preset time window unless the parental password is put in.

After setting all the parental controls my son began exploring Play Time Mode, the kids side of the device. At first he was pretty upset to not see the widget for YouTube. He started going through each pre-installed app and the first thing he found was the watch videos app. Instead of having access to endless toy reviews and gaming videos, he has the option of watching prerecorded PBS shows or streaming PBS cartoons live. My favorite app, and probably where we spend the most amount of time on together, is the “PBS Parent Play And Learn” app.

This app is the main learning tool for the device. My son enjoys all the different activities he can do under each learning category. It’s not the same learning device each time if he doesn’t want it to be. And my favorite part about this app is the different age levels offered under each category, and the parenting tips offered that explain what each activity is teaching your child and how you can apply it int the real world in order to teach them even more.

There is also an additional 20 + games on the Play Games app. One where I think improvements could be made to is the “paint box” app. This app has glitches when you try to color a pre-loaded coloring page. Most of the time that page will become one color because the lines and Page aren’t connected,and of course that makes the colors leak out.

While the “playtime mode” is almost perfectly set up for my son’s age of five, he will eventually want to use other apps or learning apps for higher grade levels will have to be installed. That’s why the tablet is so amazing. Because when you exit playtime mode it becomes a fully accessible tablet. I can download apps from Google play, use the web browser, watch Netflix, anything and everything. The best part is unless I want him to have access to an app, he has to have my parental passcode to access anything not authorized to be on playtime mode. This has limited his YouTube usage (and limited him asking for a different toy every day!). It is also reduces overall screen time as not only can I control his daily usage but he is not zoning out on the videos, therefore he’ll put it down on his own to go play outside.

Overall his tablet has some amazing features when it comes to helping the parent limit access and usage of these electronics. He was also done in a way that your child will want to use it and explore the multitude of games. I honestly wish this would have been my sons very first tablet, then he may never have become so attached to watching his YouTube videos.

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