Your Old Mobile Phone: The Perfect Holiday Gift

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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.

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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.

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