Hand-me-downs have a certain stigma, at least when it comes to clothes and toys. But finding a second life for gadgets like smartphones and tech devices is easy — especially when the recipients are kids.

A recent PBS KIDS survey of parents of 2- to 10-year-olds found that kids will be the gleeful recipients of their parents’ early-generation devices. Plan to gift the new iPhone 4S to your spouse this holiday? Your nine-year-old has a great idea for what to do with your 3GS. Is your four-year-old laptop running slow? More than likely there’s at least one kid in the household who would manage to find a way to deal with its slow speed, so long as it can access the Internet.

If that’s your tack, you won’t be alone. According to the survey, 54 percent of parents said they’d pass along old computers and 38 percent said their kids would be the beneficiaries of their old mobile devices this holiday.

But it’s important to prep the devices before the hand-off, PBS Kids says. Erasing your own data, adding educational apps and sites, and securing the Internet will help guide kids towards the smartest use of these devices.

PBS Kids advises the following:

  1. SWEEP IT: All devices should be cleaned of any content including personal files, credit card information, etc. before handing down to kids. Parents should swipe all their browser “cookies” and perform an application sweep.
  2. SECURE IT: There are parental controls on most tech devices that can turn certain features on and off. Settings on the iPhone, for example, that can be restricted include explicit song titles, Internet browser, YouTube, iTunes and the camera.
  3. SET LIMITS: As with any new toy, parents should set expectations and limitations with their kids when the device is handed down, and should encourage other forms of learning and play beyond the screen.
  4. FIND THE RIGHT APPS: A good app is the perfect combination of education and entertainment, and should be appropriate for your child’s age and stage of development. Avoid apps that try to sell: Apps labeled “lite” or “free” often attempt to make money by trying to sell virtual items while a child is playing a game, or link to another related app that requires payment to download. Select apps from trusted, reliable sources, and make sure that they are not trying to market to your child.

It comes as no surprise that the survey also found that 74 percent of parents rank the educational value of an app as a top reason for purchasing it. But plodding through the thousands of apps labeled educational is cumbersome, leaving parents to wonder what makes a good app? There are rating systems, and plenty of sites that offer advice and references, but according to the survey, 49 percent of parents defer to other parents to decide which is best for their kids.

Take a look at your smartphone or tablet. What percentage of your apps are for your kids? If you’re among the 30 percent of those surveyed, a quarter of them; but if you’re among the 16 percent of parents, a full half of those apps has got your kid’s fingerprints all over it.

Read more:


  • For educational apps designed for students and professionals of all ages, visit http://www.gwhizmobile.com.  We have dynamic, easy-to-use apps for the K-12 crowd as well as for college students and professionals alike.  

  • For educational apps designed for students and professionals of all ages, visit http://www.gwhizmobile.com.  We have dynamic, easy-to-use apps for the K-12 crowd as well as for college students and professionals alike.  

  • Andersonmeredith648

    Hi, my name is Meredith and I’m a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I think this is a wonderful idea! Kids are always excited to play with they’re parents phones and devices. Educational apps can be a good source of entertainment, but I agree that they can be hard to find. Having apps that contain sales ads could seriously hurt your credit if put in the little hands of your kids. I wouldn’t want the new devices to take away from the child’s desire to play without technology, but with the correct limitations they can learn to manage their time wisely. Thank you for the post!

  • Shutterblink

    I am certified to teach elementary school, special ed, and high school science. My 4 year old grandson is learning to read by using the apps on my phone. Many years ago I taught 1st grade and one of the apps is teaching him exactly what I taught, but in a way that is so much more fun.

  • Dianne

    When giving kids a cell phone as a holiday gift, a cell phone with
    simple but practical features is a more ideal pick. Such cell phone will limit
    the kids’ cell phone usage apparently. The Just5 Easyphone of such phone. It is
    not only simple in nature; it is also very practical for kids as it has an
    emergency response system that helps to secure their safety. 

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor