A Starting Point

App review by
Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Media
A Starting Point App Poster Image
Conversation starter has balanced views, some mature topics.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Teens can learn some factual information and have opportunity to hear opinions about important issues from a variety of experienced politicians. Learning could be improved with evidence (or links to additional information) that supports the opinions.

Ease of Play

Although some of the information could be better organized, it’s easy to navigate. Features like sharing videos are simple to use.

Violence

Gun violence, safety, and legislation are discussed.

Sex

Sensitive topics include reproductive choice and human trafficking.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sensitive topics include legalizing marijuana, the opioid crisis.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Starting Point is a civic engagement app for iOS and Android devices. Kids can listen to brief commentaries from Democrats, Republicans, and a few Independents about various issues. Some of the issues include mature topics such as reproductive choice and the legalization of marijuana, so the app is best for older teens. Nothing is covered in great depth. However, the information that's provided is a good way to get teens thinking and talking about different views on current issues. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your or your kid's information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

A STARTING POINT is a resource library that consists of videos from elected officials across the United States. The videos are organized into three main sections: Starting Points, Daily Points, and Counterpoints. Starting Points includes two minute answers to common questions. Categories include Economy, Education, Environment, Government, Health, Immigration, International, and Rights. There are questions within each category that are answered by members of the Democratic and Republican parties. Daily Points is a forum for elected officials to make a point about any topic in under a minute. There appears to be a balance between the political parties represented, but this section's organization is unclear. Counterpoints includes discussions between two members of different parties. Each person contributes to the discussion in less than a minute, and the topics and pairings are chosen by the contributors.

Is it any good?

This resource offers an exciting way to start conversations with older teens while offering balanced views of important topics, but don't expect a lot of depth. It's mainly an opinion-based platform that doesn't dive deep into fact-based learning. However, it serves its intended purpose of engaging users through balanced discussions relevant to individual rights and duties of citizenship.

Teens who are interested in particular topics will likely find the Starting Points section most helpful. Here, the information is clearly organized, and it's easy to find politically balanced talking points. The Counterpoints section is also well organized, but users can't pause or rewind the videos. The Daily Points section has a wide selection of videos that don't seem to be organized in any particular way. Topic buttons across the top of the home screen confuse matters even more. Overall, though, it's pretty easy to navigate. Most importantly, it encourages teens to think about all sides of issues, which is important for the critical thinking needed for digital citizenship.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the topics covered by A Starting Point, addressing any that may be of concern. Which topics most interest teens and why? What additional topics would teens like to see covered?

  • Discuss the importance of learning about, and listening to, different viewpoints to get balanced information. 

  • Talk about the difference between opinions and facts, and whether the app provides opinions, facts, or both.

App details

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