Pony Palace Camp

Pony Palace IllustrationAt the Pony Palace riding school, ponies Barney, Biscuit and Kaz are getting up to their usual mischief during Summer Camp with their riders Holly, Carrie and Patrick. With a clear round needed to clinch the winning rosette, it’ll take tumbles and tears before everyone’s back safely in the stables.

Pony Palace Camp is the first in a new series of books, Pony Friends Forever, that all pony-mad children will love. Based on the animals and events at Lessans Riding Stables outside Belfast in Northern Ireland, author Pauline Burgess tells the stories from the ponies’ point of view. Although light-hearted and fun, each book will will deal with a situation that young people face, from illness to family-breakups. Launched today at Lessans, the book is available from all good retailers, including Amazon and Waterstones.

For regular Geek News Central readers who fear that they have inadvertently logged onto Mumsnet, the author Pauline, is a friend and neighbour, hence the diversion from the usual tech topics. Normal service will be resumed shortly with reviews of the Motorola Moto X and the Archos Helium 50 smartphones.

Safe Games for Kids by Toca Boca at The Gadget Show

Toca BocaAs a a parent with a tablet-loving daughter, I’m always worried that she’s either playing inappropriate games or else building up whopping a credit card bill via in-app purchases. Being tech-savvy, I can easily rectify the latter by controlling the password to my account, but this doesn’t always negate pester-power. The former is still a concern and I’m not alone as these two issues are relevant to parents everywhere.

To help mums and dads, Swedish outfit Toca Boca, “a play studio that makes digital toys for kids” have created a range of open-ended, non-competitive games that appeal to children where the initial purchase cost is the only time you need to flex the credit card. There are over 20 apps available for Apple, Android and Amazon devices, and include games for young hairdressers, chefs, doctors, vets, chemists, scientists and drivers. The themes are very similar to some of the popular “free” games that are out there; the Toca Boca versions usually cost US$2.99 but there are no subsequent in-app purchases.

I chat to Sonia about the Toca Boca apps and how parents can be more confident in what their children playing on their tablets without the worry of an enlarged credit card bill.

Social Media for Children – KidzVuz

KidzVuz LogoKidzVuz is an on-line community for children that lets them review and comment on kids’ gear. Andy and Don talk with co-founder Rebecca Levey about the site’s features and how they’re tailored to children.

Children are often left out of the on-line world as the major social networking sites such as Facebook enforce age restrictions on their members, and rightly so. KidzVuz encourages junior members to join in but addresses child protection issues by seeking parental permission, moderating all content and preserving anonymity. The site is completely COPA-compliant.

KidzVuz encourages children to upload video reviews of toys and games; to reward participation, many activities are turned into games with worldwide leaderboards. The site is categorised with different areas such as games, books and film. Food and travel has proved popular with children reporting back on family holidays.

KidzVuz is free to use by children and there is complementary blog for parents.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net, and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

Support our Show Sponsor:
30% off your new order @ GoDaddy: gnc30
1.49 .com New or Renewal geek149
$1.00 / mo WordPress Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: press4
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: geeks12
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today
Play

Kidz Gear Volume Limiting Headphones

Volume Limiting Headphones

CES regular Jack Peterson talks with Todd and Don on the latest headphones for children from Kidz Gear.

Kidz Gear produces headphones with smaller headbands and ear cups to fit the smaller heads of children. This year they’ve brought to the market new wired headphones that have a built-in volume limiter that prevents children’s hearing becoming damaged through excessive sound levels. The headphones reduce the maximum sound level by about 20% into the 80-95 decibel range.

The new headphones are compatible with the iPad, iPhone and iPod ranges and include an inline remote  and mic control. They’re available from the Apple Store or direct from Kidz Gear for $29.99.

An additional new product in the same vein is a volume limit cable which can be added to already-purchased headphones to make them safer for children. Priced at only $9.99, there’s currently a special price of $5.99 showing on-line.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

Support our Show Sponsor:
30% off your new order @ GoDaddy: gnc30
1.49 .com New or Renewal geek149
$1.00 / mo WordPress Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: press4
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: geeks12
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today
Play

Reading Together, Reading for Pleasure

Booktime LogoMore time is spent reading with children but parents are finding modern life tiring and stressful, according to research commissioned by Booktime. The average time spent by parents reading with their child (4  & 5 year olds) is now one hour 26 mins per week, an increase of 10% over 2009. 60% of parents read with children for pleasure on a daily basis.

Tiredness was cited as the main reason for shared reading not being fun, but it was the tiredness of the parents (18%) rather than the child (6%) that was the problem. Getting home from work in time was also a problem, with 30% of dads getting stuck at work.

Regardless, 71% of parents and carers said that reading with their child was always or usually the highlight of the day. 80% of the parents said that reading was associated with fun with 86% of children laughing out loud.

The book is still the main reading device (86%) but other devices such as smartphones, tablets and e-readers are becoming more prevalent. By the time a child is six, nearly a quarter of parents use technology in addition to paper-based books.

In a time of economic doom-and-gloom, this relatively minor story made my day. It costs so little to read to children especially when books are available from libraries or the Booktime programme, yet the benefits to both parents and children are immense. As a father of a 4 year old daughter, I love reading with her, especially at bedtime. It’s just us, with no distractions and we read the story together. If she grows up with a love of reading and learning, I will have done my job as a parent.

Booktime is a national (UK) free books programme for pre-school children that aims to promote the pleasure of reading by encouraging families to have fun reading together. This year, nearly 1.4 million books will be given away in partnership with Pearson.

Magazines are iPads That Don’t Work

Watch the video below and let me know how you feel after watching it, but for the purposes of discussion, remember two things first. One, to avoid any pro- or anti-Apple bias, ignore the fact that it’s an Apple iPad and assume that it’s just a generic tablet. Two, take what the video shows at face value as one could easily make a case that some of the actions with the magazines are normal behaviour and don’t show anything special.

Add your comments below. I’ll chip in later.

Kidz Gear – Headphones for Children

Andy McCaskey checks out Kidz Gear and their range of headphones for kids. These guys produce child-sized headphones that have all the features of adult ones. Genius – I couldn’t find a decent pair for my 3 year old and ended buying some folding Sennheisers as they had the smallest  headsize. Anyway, this isn’t about Sennheiser…

There’s two models on offer, wired at $19.99 and wireless at $25.99. Both have child-sized but wide head-bands, comfortable but smaller ear cups and a rich sound. In all, a hundred times better than the “free” headphones that often come with audio products. The wired set come with an add-on volume limiter to stop the music being played too loud – the limiter can be used with any 3.5mm headphones.

Jack Peterson, VP Sales, talks as an entrepreneur about developing the products and getting them manufactured. Even if you aren’t interested in this product, it’s worth having a watch from about 4 minutes in.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors.

Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.

Zoodles Child-Safe Play App

Jeffrey interviews Mark Williamson, CEO of Zoodles, which makes software that gives a “kid mode” to devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones. As I suspect most parents will testify, children are always keen to get their hands on Mommmy’s or Daddy’s latest toy. The “kid mode” creates a walled-garden (or sand-pit) that includes lots of child-friendly educational games and activities, such as painting, and prevents the child from accessing other software on the phone. I’ve had a look at the Zoodles website and there are plenty of games for different age ranges, including games from Lego and Disney.

Recently, Zoodles has been focussing on Android but there are versions for iOS, Mac and PC. The basic version is free, though there is a Premium membership that gives more control over the software.

I’ll be trying this out with my 3 year old – any chance of a WebOS version?

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast.

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors.

Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.

[flowplayer src='http://blip.tv/file/get/Techpodcasts-CES2011LiveZoodies127.m4v' width=480 height=270 splash=http://www.geeknewscentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/zoodles.png]

Google Family Safety Centre

Google FamilyGoogle has setup the Family Safety Centre to help parents and teachers keep their children safe online.  After spending a little time in the resource, it seems to be a good introduction to online safety for children from a parent’s point of view.  If you need to know more, you can then take it further through some of the links.

The Centre has four main sections:

i) Google Safety Tools – information on Safesearch, which stops inappropriate material being returned in searches, and YouTube Safety Mode, which similarly stops age-restricted videos from appearing.

ii) Advice from partners – information from children’s organisations on cyberbullying, privacy, talking to strangers online, adult content and malware.

iii) Reporting abuse – if you find inappropriate material on any of Google’s properties (YouTube, Buzz, Picasa, Blogger), here’s how to flag the material to Google.

iv) Video tips from Google parents – a set of videos on YouTube from parents to parents.  In this section there’s also six basic tips for on-line safety.  Frankly, I think these tips should be more prominent as they’re good.
Keep computers in a central place
– Know where your children go online
– Teach internet safety
– Help prevent viruses
– Teach your children to communicate responsibly
– View all content critically

Each country has its own slight variant, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US and UK versions – there are probably others for non-English speakers. The main difference seems to be the list of partner organisations that Google has worked with (and spelling).

If you are a parent, you should spend a few minutes having a read of the information here.