How to choose an educational app for your child

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & NutritionParenting & Family Life
  Published on Wednesday, 27 June 2018

How to choose an educational app for your child

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & NutritionParenting & Family Life
  Published on Wednesday, 27 June 2018
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For many families, screen time is something that children love, and parents try to limit. Here, we look at how much screen time is recommended, and how families can fill that viewing window with educational content.

How much screen time is too much screen time?

According to the Department of Health, 'children who spend long periods of time inactive are more likely to have poor physical, social and intellectual development'.

When it comes to screen time, the Department of Health recommends that:

  1. Children under two should not watch any TV or use any electronic devices
  2. Children aged two to five should have less than one hour of screen time per day
  3. Children aged five to 12 should spend no more than two hours a day in front of a screen

That said, when preschoolers and older children do get their hour or two of screen time, it's not all bad news. According to a recent study by the University of Washington, young developing minds can benefit from high-quality apps on tablets and smartphones, as long as they:

  1. Are thoughtfully designed
  2. Encourage parent-child interaction
  3. Encourage choice
  4. Offer breaks, i.e. no 'auto-play' features
  5. Have educational value
What else should parents look for in a children's app?
 
iTunes and Google Play are bursting with child-friendly titles, and it can be tricky to sort the quality from the quantity. However, to make screen time a learning experience, try to focus on the apps that engage, educate and entertain.

To this end, consumer advisory Choice recommends apps that:
  1. Make children think and respond in a switched-on way
  2. Are genuinely fun to play
  3. Contain limited distractions, such as pop-up animations and sounds or frequent requests for in-app purchases
  4. Have a 'meaningful thread' like missions that build on one another or real world applications
  5. Have a social element, whether that means playing with a child on the other side of the world or playing with a parent in the same room

Overall, apps that inspire creativity, strategic thinking and conversation are great alternatives to those that call for mindless swiping. Ask for recommendations from family and friends, check online reviews, try before you buy (with free Lite versions of apps) and choose your child's technology wisely.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 09 July 2020

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