Scheduling, therefore, is not the app’s greatest potential virtue — introducing children to managing social media and their digital presence within the confines of parental supervision is.
About 2,000 people (about 20 percent are locally based) have registered with KidMix, according to Clay Goldberg. To join, parents create a username and password and verify their identity through a credit card or a PayPal or Amazon account or via KidMix Verification, which asks for personal information such as the last four digits of users’ Social Security numbers.
Whether parents choose a trusted or limited security level for their technophile, they’ll have to approve play dates and other interactions. (“Limited” means parents must approve friend connections, and kids can’t write their own messages; “trusted,” recommended for kids 8 and older, means they can write status updates in their profiles without parents’ okay.)
Children have their own username and password, and a more colorful interface. (In a nod to parental privacy concerns, they can choose to be identified only by first name and the first letter of their last name.) To set up a play date, they pick the friend they want to contact — who must also have a KidMix account — and fill out details such as location, time, date and who will provide transportation. Play dates show up on both the child’s and parents’ calendars, keeping everyone on the same digital page.
Kids can also can make profiles, upload pictures, update statuses and comment. They can scroll through the News Feed, play games or visit the SmartZone, which offers videos of the day, sports tips such as how to shoot a basketball, and educational information. The developers will be opening the app to teens soon (anyone 13 or younger will still need parental permission to join) and will be adding video uploads and other features.
It’s a bit too early to say how parents and kids are taking to KidMix. But not everyone is convinced that children need to “schedule their own playdates and participate in independent, kid-friendly communication,” as the KidMix website puts it. “They need to learn social skills and manners and how to talk to people face to face,” says my friend Stacey Schmidt, a Fairfax mom of two kids younger than 6. “These are skills they will need when they are adults.”
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OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS and Android
CREATOR: KidMix LLC
USER RATINGS: Not enough from iTunes; Google Play, (13 ratings)
REVIEW’S BOTTOM LINE: Parents won’t gain much “me time” because of this app, but they can use it to help kids learn digital responsibility.