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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Puffin Academy is an app that serves as an alternative Web browser that only offers access to a pre-set list of educational websites. Its big appeal is that lets users access websites that use the Flash plug-in, which is unavailable on many mobile devices but still is widely in use on many websites used in education. If you're interested in accessing these sites on your mobile device or creating a safe space for your kids to study online, Puffin Academy can be a helpful tool.
What's it about?
PUFFIN ACADEMY is a mobile Web browser that offers kids access to a pre-set list of education-related websites from around the Web. You can browse the list by name or by subject area (such as science or social studies). Within its approved websites, Puffin Academy offers all the features of a standard mobile Web browser; it's easy to bookmark, browse, and share content.
Puffin Academy's main claim to fame, however, is that it allows access to websites that use the Flash plug-in, which isn't compatible with most mobile devices but is still used on many stellar educational and gaming websites. To make it easier to use those sites, there's a feature for overlaying gaming controls and a virtual trackpad on the device's screen.
Is it any good?
Unfortunately, only a slim portion of the Web is accessible through Puffin Academy. The site's main page links to a list of approved sites from such educational institutions as publishers and nonprofits. Some great content is available, but it's definitely limited. Although it's technically possible to bookmark other sites such as the New York Times website, the browser blocks most sites not on its built-in "whitelist." This is an effective way to prevent kids from wandering into unseemly corners of the Internet, but it also can be pretty limiting.
The gaming console and trackpad overlays are nice and sometimes necessary to navigate the Flash sites. Additionally, using Puffin Academy involves a constant connection to the developer's cloud-based computers, and that connection can drain the device's battery quickly and make it cumbersome to switch between apps on the device. Ultimately, this could be a great browser for accessing the specific Flash-based sites linked from the Puffin Academy home page. It's incredibly fast, and it's nice to have a list of kid-friendly websites. But without the ability to bookmark most sites beyond that list, this app may not work well as an overall go-to mobile browser for kids.
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