PBS KIDS Super Vision

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
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Helpful tool for monitoring kids' play on PBS KIDS site.

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn to balance their time between screens and other activities, with help and guidance from their parents. They'll see how technology can be used for entertainment, education, information, and time management. Parents can monitor what kids are seeing and doing and get ideas to enhance their learning and fun both on-screen and off. PBS KIDS Super Vision is a helpful tool for parents to use as they guide their kids in using media wisely.

Ease of Play

Setup is quite easy, with step-by-step instructions, but the accuracy of the reports is pretty hit-and-miss. Connections work if kids are playing on a computer but do not seem to work if they're playing on a tablet.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

A tab in the app includes links to several other PBS KIDS apps. As kids watch shows or play games, parents get suggestions for other shows or games kids might enjoy.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that PBS KIDS Super Vision links a parent's mobile device to the PBS KIDS website so parents can use their "super vision" for remote supervision. The iOS app is available for iPhone but can be used on an iPad as well. Parents enter a unique code from the PBS KIDS website on their device and then can monitor in real time what their kids are playing or watching on the site. They can get reports of skills kids are learning and how long they spend on different activities as well as suggestions for other games, shows, or apps kids might like and off-screen activities to enhance learning. Parents also can set a timer to turn off the site automatically. PBS KIDS Super Vision's reporting isn't fully accurate in some areas, and it doesn't work when kids are playing on the site through a tablet or phone.

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What's it about?

Parents select the gear icon in the top-right corner of the PBS KIDS website and enter the unique code into the app. They'll then see on their device what kids are playing or watching at PBS KIDS and a related activity (via a link to the PBS website.) Parents can set a play timer to turn the site off after a certain amount of time. On the site, kids see the screen turn green with a message to play again later. The activity summary shows the skills explored and how long kids watched videos and how many games they played.

Is it any good?

Giving parents a tool to help with monitoring screen time is a great idea, and PBS KIDS SUPER VISION certainly offers a handy service for free, even if all the features don't work perfectly every time. The timer is reliable, which by itself is worth the download. Parents can close the site as kids are playing at the touch of a button or set a timer to turn it off automatically. They can even customize the message kids will see ("break time," "bedtime," "mealtime," "time for school"), though many kids playing on PBS KIDS won't be able to read the message themselves (it's not read aloud). The real-time updates of what kids are watching or playing are helpful, too, as are the suggestions for other PBS programs and off-screen activities, though they don't always update when kids change activities online quickly. The video timer showing how long kids have been watching videos doesn't work well, and none of the app integrates with a tablet.

The concept is cool, and it's certainly empowering for parents. Kids may appreciate more face-to-face conversations about what they're playing and when they need to stop rather than having it monitored and controlled remotely. This tool requires balance in its use as it teaches kids balance in their media use.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Talk with kids about balancing screen time with other activities, and strive to set an example with your own media habits.

  • Although the tool is designed for parents to use with young kids, parents can show tweens and teens how easy it is for their Internet activity to be monitored (and not only by parents with their best interests in mind).

App details

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