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Muffy Mendoza is the mama-in-chief at brownmamas.com, a lifestyle site that focuses on helping Black mothers enjoy everyday life. She often blogs about making life easier for moms using technology.
July 24, 2012Net Nanny for Android 2.0
Mar 25, 2017
Although there is still a lot to learn about the world of virtual reality, as a homeschool mom I’m excited to try out some of these kid-friendly virtual reality apps with my family.
The Google Cardboard VR headset is custom made for kids and boasts a few apps that promise safe and educational virtual reality experiences for children. Google Cardboard is not recommended for kids under the age of 7, so you may want to use your middle-aged children as guinea pigs for this type of online fun. For educators and homeschoolers, virtual reality does offer a unique opportunity to immerse kids in environments they’d otherwise not experience. My advice is to try apps one at a time and monitor your kid’s behavior after usage.
YouTube is also a great resource to preview VR apps before playing and I found YouTube videos for just about every app on this list. With that said, here is my homeschool wish list of VR apps to try out in our virtual classroom. Get Ready for The Virtual World
FREE (no in-app purchases)Studying science or geography comes to life with the ability to visit underground worlds or take a life-like walk through the jungle with this immersive VR app. The app is rated for Everyone and is multiplayer as long as you are sharing the same Wi-Fi network with other users. Parents can guide their kids on a real-time tour of the Egyptian pyramids, or walk with them down a busy New York Street. It boasts over 200 virtual worlds and is compatible with Google Cardboard and your Android phone. It’s basically Google Streetview turned virtual and classrooms around the world are already using this VR app to take kids on field trips. Kids cannot use this app alone, as there is no solo mode, and it requires 2 or more Android connections.
FREE (1.99 in-app purchases)My first reaction to Froggy VR is that it’s confusing. You are basically placed in the frog’s world with no direction and it's not the most intuitive VR game. Parents should play Froggy VR before allowing their kids to play, so you can provide some direction to them. It is not multi-player, but is rated for Everyone. From my point-of-view, it’s a good starter VR game and there aren’t very many flashing lights or fast-paced movements. It also has a PG objective, as the Frog character is simply searching for food. Heads up that users can only complete one level before purchasing the app ($1.99) and if your Wi-Fi connection is slow, the graphics tend to get a bit distorted. This app is also compatible with Google Cardboard.
FREE (no in-app purchases)Lamper is an easy, fun introductory VR game for Google Cardboard. Unlike Froggy, it is very intuitive and easy to understand. However, parents might be slightly concerned about the fast-paced flight of the virtual firefly game and it has a decent amount of flashing light graphics. Parents may also want to know that several users in the Google Play Store describe Lamper VR as an “addictive” game. The basic tenet of the game to fight your way to safety through a series of tunnels, through the eyes of a firefly bug called Lamper. The Lampers' kingdom was attacked, and they are now fleeing for their lives. Lamper is popular as a starter VR game among virtual reality newbies.
In-app purchases up to 9.99Like Expeditions, the View-Master virtual reality apps are on my list of must-haves. In addition to some kid-friendly Batman and maze/labyrinth apps, View-Master also has a National Geographic series that allows your kids to take dynamic field trips from the comfort of your home. It is compatible with Google Cardboard and Android, but can also be downloaded on iTunes. Additionally, it can be purchased with its very own View-Master VR headset. Parents need to know, though, that there are a lot of complaints in the Google Play Store of “iffy” graphics and higher than usual download time. Also, in-app purchases can also be as high as $9.99.
Psst... kids don’t get to have all the fun! I also found that National Geographic also has an interesting line of parent-friendly 360 VR Apps that allow you to do everything from fly an airplane to have a close encounter with a shark.
Regardless of whether apps are virtual or not, parents should always be aware and in control of the information, their children are consuming online. Stay in the driver’s seat of your kid’s online experiences and make sure their digital devices are equipped with parental control software to keep the good in — and the bad out.