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Apps that might be worth a download for yourself or family

Let’s face it, new apps are being cranked out for you and your kids’ phones every day. And, of course, being a careful parent, the job is left to you to keep tabs on things and make sure you quickly spot those applications that have shadowy corners to them. You know what I’m talking about: Those apps that aid in all sorts of negative things from allowing connections with strangers to hiding away nasty images. Families need to be careful.

Well, we here at Plugged In certainly feel for you. That’s why we’ll periodically give you the low-down on some of those dark-cornered apps that might pop up on your kid’s phone. This time around, though, were gonna lay out a different kind of list: a positive one.

READ: Kirk Cameron on kids and smartphones

No app is perfect, of course, and most can be misused. But some are better than others, and here’s a handful of new and not-so-new apps that might actually offer a family-plus for your phone, or the one stashed in Junior’s backpack.

Weather Up
There are seemingly more weather apps being offered to you and your kids than internet pictures of dancing puppies and piano-playing kittens. But the revamped Weather Up for iOS gives you something special by synchronizing its reports to the upcoming events on your personal calendar. In addition to the normal hourly or daily forecasts and radar maps it can alert you to a pending snow storm that will put a crimp on that planned family outing.

Allowances & Chore Bot
Your kids may actually think that they’re your chore bot. (Hey, that’s why they call the grinding things of life a “chore.”) But did you know that there’s an app to help make those uncared-for duties into something of a game? Yep, not only does it allow Mom or Dad to set up a chore and reward list, and monitor its progress, but it also gives family members a way to check off the chores and earn rewards as they go (or deductions if they sluff off). Once everyone sees who’s making the most cash for a job well done, the game might heat up indeed.

This is something of a private communications platform that not only gives you a safe and secure place to connect with friends and family, but it also packs family-friendly tips about healthy food, fun activities and fab ideas focused on everything from creating cool study areas to what to do with mismatched socks. You can use it to set up everything from birthday parties to car pools to a good babysitter. This downloadable app can be a handy space for family-focused fare.

You could call the Cozi app a family organizer. If your clan is running in so many directions that you’re not quite sure if this is swim team night, a drama club meeting or grandma’s birthday party, this might be the app for you. Cozi can easily organize activities, to-do lists, appointments, and shopping lists so that you all know what’s going on. Hey, there’s even room for recipes and a bit of family journaling.

Are you as sad as I am that creative family photo albums have been forgotten and replaced by digital photo stockpiles? Well, the photo book fun can return with the Steller app. All you have to do is drop in some of those archived pics and few cute lines and your family photo album can be stitched together with a variety of dynamic themes and layouts. You can post these creations online or keep them for your own private joy. Grandma will envy you for sure.

OK, this one’s a bonus for those harried moms or dads who reach the end of the day plenty tired but who can’t seem to get the old brain to shut down. This free app allows you to mix and match different kinds of subtle sounds from white noise to the burble of a softly flowing brook. You can even mix your sound of choice with a favorite tune. And there’s a built-in timer to shut it all down once you drift off. Hey, you’re a hard-working parent. You need your rest!

–By Bob Hoose | Bob is a producer and writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.