7 Parent-Recommended Apps for Children on the Spectrum Life would be so simple and boring if there were easy, one-size-fits-all answers to all of our parenting questions! But there are days that it seems none...
By now you’ve noticed that Wonder Bunch is made differently, today we’ll tell you why (and how!)
Hey there! I’m Alex, the Dad and resident nerd behind the Wonder Bunch.
First, I wanted to thank you all for being part of this wonderful world we are working so hard to create for families. It means so much to us all that the work we put into these products is speaking to other parents just like us, who wanted something better and safer for their children. We are so humbled and grateful for every family we are able to connect with, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being here.
But as long as we’re here, I thought I’d take a minute to explain a little more about why we felt Wonder Bunch Media needed to take a different approach to children’s learning apps. I’m also going to show you some of the tricks behind finding out who makes your children’s apps, which can give you more tools for choosing the apps you feel are best for your children.
When Meghan and I first started downloading apps for ourselves, we found that we would classify them as “fun” apps, “helpful” apps, “business” apps, or “organization” apps. We chose them based on the job they did and didn’t think much more about it. But once we started thinking about downloading an app for our children, we became a lot more discerning.
We started noticing that these apps were not developmentally appropriate and did not meet our children where they were, or were simply packed with unnecessary graphics and noises. When we dug a little deeper, we found that some developers of these children’s apps were also responsible for the gamification of some of the most highly addictive gambling units in the world. Yikes!
Gamification is the application of elements of game-play in otherwise non-competitive activities. It’s used by a lot of marketers to keep you engaged with a page for longer than you’d intended, and can even entice you to make purchases you hadn’t planned for. In and of itself, gamification is not a red-flag word. In your fitness app, it’s what drives you to “beat” your step counter or your calorie goal for the day. In your language learning app, it motivates you to earn enough points to pass a lesson or climb the leader board. Even your favorite exercise bike uses gamification to help you meet your goals.
Plenty! Competitive games can improve your edge, foster curiosity, and help create a sense of control. You are given a task list, you complete it, and you are rewarded for your efforts. Soon the game will get harder, and as you complete harder and harder levels, your brain releases dopamine, the happiness hormone. You walk away feeling accomplished, satisfied, and maybe just a little euphoric.
Well, artificially stimulating a dopamine response is, very literally, addictive. It’s what happens when you eat sugar, pull down to reload and find new content on social media, or receive a “like” on your latest post or picture. The more you stimulate the dopamine response, the harder it becomes for your brain to create this response without stimulation. And if you find yourself regularly artificially stimulating chemical production in a previously chemically balanced brain, that brain stops making those chemicals on its own.
And just like that, you’re dependent.
There are documentaries, articles, and ironically enough, social media support groups that talk about the negative impact of social media and gaming on our brain health. All of these studies are focused on the mostly-developed young adult or adolescent brain. But what happens when a brain that is only just developing is constantly exposed to artificial dopamine stimulation?
The plain answer is that we just don’t know, but we do know that we can do something to limit our children’s exposure right now.
We finally developed a kind of rhythm for researching children’s apps before we ever even downloaded them. Our first step was to trust the instincts of other parents. We started reading reviews on the App Store like mad. Parents are good about telling you why they love an app, and we used that feedback not only when deciding what to download, but while developing our Wonder Bunch apps as well.
The second step was to research the developer. On the App Store listing of each app, about 2/3 of the way down, you’ll find the name of the app developer. Even if you see a name you recognize, head to the developer’s website and scroll all the way to the bottom. The name the site is copyrighted as is usually a separate company. Sometimes it’s a parent company, and sometimes it’s a shell company, but that will tell you the true developer. That’s who you need to take the time to learn about.
We found ourselves falling down a rabbit hole, reading GlassDoor reviews from staff and Better Business Bureau reports. That was where we discovered that our former favorite app was developed by a slot machine producer, with the specific intention of making the game addictive. Needless to say that app was gone from all of our household devices in a hurry.
That was the final straw for us, the moment we decided we needed to create a better app for our kids, and yours. Once we realized we were going to change how apps functioned, we figured we would address all of the questions and concerns we saw other parents had as well.
Some of the main concerns we saw included:
We brought in world class artists, animators, musicians, developers, voice actors, and educators to create something we are proud to share with other families. It took us a lot of time and thought to get it just right, but now that we have, we are so thrilled to keep sharing our Wonder Bunch World with your family!
The bad news is that anyone can make an app. That means there are so many to sift through!
But the good news is… anyone can make an app! And that means that if you can think of a better, more respectful, more productive way of reaching and educating children, your chance to do that is in the palm of your hand.
Thank you for being part of the Wonder Bunch, and for choosing apps that are better for your child’s development. If you love our apps, please be sure to drop us a review on the App Store! And if you don’t love our apps, please let us know what we can do to make our products more accessible to your family by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks again for listening and for caring about what your kids play on their devices. And please continue to take care of each other.