What the Tech: Travel tech for kids

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(ABC 6 News) – The U.S. Surgeon General and the White House issued an advisory on Tuesday that most parents already know: social media apps can be harmful to children. The 25-page report comes just days ahead of the busiest travel day in recent years.

So, what does it have to do with Memorial Day travel? If you’re going to be in the car with kids for several hours you’ll notice the silence from the backseat is likely because they’re scrolling through TikTok, Instagram, or other social media apps. If that raises concern, here’s an idea: turn off the cellular connection or internet on their phone or tablet.

Even without an internet connection, those devices can keep them entertained for as long as you’re on the road. Look in the app stores for other apps, even educational ones as long as they’re fun.

How about a coloring book app? One of my favorites is April Coloring. It’s more like paint by numbers with your finger. Each picture takes around 20 minutes to complete. The free version gives you a few pictures but there are some really annoying ads when you first open the app and when you select a picture to color. The non-skippable ads are loud too. A subscription is $9 a month for dozens of pictures and it removes the ads. Mind you, April Coloring isn’t just for young kids. It’s a relaxing way to pass the time for anyone.

If they’re going to be watching movies or shows on a tablet or phone, they’ll need a consistent internet connection. That’s iffy traveling down the highway. So download what they want to watch ahead of time. You can download movies and shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. This is especially helpful if you have a base Netflix plan with limited screens. Movies and shows can be downloaded on two devices. Just look for the “download button” below “play”. Download the content before you leave because it takes a long time even over WiFi. And don’t forget to delete the download and find something else before you head back home.

Download books they pick out ahead of time using the app, Libby. This app makes available titles from public libraries that you can check out for two weeks for free. Most everything the library has on its shelves can be found in the Libby app unless they’ve already been checked out by someone else. They can read books in the Libby app or with the Kindle app.

If you need to find a place with free WiFi, open Facebook. Under settings and privacy, there’s a “Find WiFi” tab. Companies and restaurants with Facebook pages include their WiFi network name and passwords. There used to be a few travel apps to help you find clean restrooms on your route. Most of those are gone from the app stores now. But there’s another option. Starbucks generally keeps its restrooms very clean and the Starbucks app will show you exactly its nearest location. And the Gas Buddy app will help you find the lowest gas prices around but also has some information on each station. Showing their amenities and reviews of their cleanliness.