Pinwheel’s OS and apps help kids connect with others and themselves in a healthy manner.
What’s up with Pinwheel’s Operating System (OS)?
Our OS was created specifically to help children connect with others by limiting their screen time and creating structure in their lives. By using the phone as a tool, children are in the moment. They are outside playing with others or diving head-first into a novel or book they love. The OS is not the sole solution, but it helps kids get to where we want them to be: healthy users who aren’t used by tech.
It gets better...
Pinwheel’s apps also help users connect with others, but not through social media and imitative relationships. The connections are with people they know and care about. Similarly, apps can be used by children as a way to work on relationships that they want to nurture more. As importantly, the wellness apps help children connect with themselves and work on who they want to become. Because yes, adulthood can wait, but what happens now changes your future self.
An OS Designed for Connection:
Another way Pinwheel’s OS helps children develop social connections is through the Caregiver Portal. Using the Caregiver Portal, you, as a parent or primary caregiver of your child, will be able to easily manage your child’s phone.
The Caregiver Portal improves the connection between parents and children in these four ways:
- Allows caregivers to set rules so they aren’t constantly monitoring the child’s phone use and don’t have to continuously “nag” them.
- Teaches children responsibility, structure, and time management. By being more structured and efficient with their time, kids have more time to build those vital human connections with friends, family members, and themselves.
- The regulation of your child’s phone shouldn’t lead to an argument, but rather, a discussion around healthy tech-habits and phone usage.
- Allows separated parents to create their own routines and rules when a child moves between homes.
Apps That Connect Children to Friends and Loved Ones
We have 11 app categories, all of which are meant to shape healthy, tech responsible kids. A lot of time and energy went into choosing these healthy apps and creating the 11 categories.
Our two founders, Dane Witbeck and Isaiah McPeak, did not want the apps on Pinwheel’s OS to be addictive. Nor for there to be an app store that allowed children to salivate over mindless games and social media apps—resulting in continuously asking their parents to purchase new apps or in-game features.
So, they created a therapist council and brought on psychologist Dr. Mike Brooks, author of Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World, and therapist Rebecca Hubbard.
Together, Dane, Isaiah, Dr. Brooks, and Rebecca created Pinwheel’sApp Criteria, which has eight principles our apps must meet before they are placed on Pinwheel phones. They used the App Criteria to sift through 3,000 apps to find which ones were best for child development and met Pinwheel’s standards.
Below are some of the apps specifically chosen to connect kids with others and themselves.
Communication Apps: Connecting in a Socially-Distant World
Pinwheel knows many families are cognizant of the amount of time kids and adults spend on screens, but we believe in quality over quantity. The apps below are to help children connect with their loved ones, family, and friends.
- Zello: PTT Walkie Talkie - is a walkie talkie on your phone. It works over WIFI and mobile data. As a kid, I recall using walkie talkies with my father and twin brother. We were transported into military operations or top-secret spy stories. As middle schoolers, we put in new batteries and used them during day-long air-soft battles in the local parks or friend’s backyards.
- Zoom - if you’ve been working from home, you’re probably far too familiar with Zoom. However, Zoom isn’t just for business meetings and those early morning group-think projects. It can be used to connect children with their loved ones, extended family members, and their own friends who they haven’t seen in awhile or recently moved cities.
- GoToMeeting - gives you and your child the accessibility & reliability to connect via video chat with each other, and with extended family members and friends. Its interface is easy to use and is one reason we put this app on Pinwheel.
Wellness Apps That Help Your Child Better Connect With Themselves, and in Turn, Better Connect With Others
Mental health matters. Period. Especially during the pandemic, it’s important for your children to have personal check-ins. Kids need to be mindful of how they’re feeling and the cause of those feelings.
You can’t connect with others unless you feel up to it. The Wellness Apps on Pinwheel are to help with just that—keep children mentally aware so they can have more meaningful connections with others.
- MyLife Meditation - This app is honestly great for kids, teens, and adults. It helps children check-in with themselves and can reduce anxiety, depression, or stress. By acknowledging and being able to control these types of feelings, kids can go and be kids!
- Ninja Focus - Another app designed for kids to control their emotions and regulate sleep. Ninja Focus is kid-oriented and made for those on the younger side of Pinwheel’s users.
- CustomJournal - Either create your own prompts or answer the ones given to you by CustomJournal. This app helps kids jot down memories, write creative stories, or track daily habits and exercise. Like Pinwheel, CustomJournal grows with you and its prompts react to what you answer.
What We Have Learned
Healthy connections matter. For kids to be in a place where they can, and want to connect with others, they need to be in a good mental space.
Pinwheel’s wellness apps help children work on themselves by nudging them to reflect on who they are and who they want to be. The other communication apps help children foster and retain the necessary face-to-face human interactions with friends and relatives from afar.
Not having the web browser, app store, or mindless games is what allows Pinwheel kids to connect with themselves and others.