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The App Effect

Children growing up in a media driven culture can be exposed to large amounts of screen time each day, at home and at school.

As learning expands and interests form, you may wonder what the effect an app based environment has on learning. Research topics revolving around this area are increasing, and some studies are showing interesting findings.

Schools.com has compiled an infographic outlining children’s use of tablets and attitudes revolving around apps.

The App Effect

Image source: schools.com

The educational based app arena has seen an upsurge in recent years and according to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center as many as 80% of the paid educational apps that are available from the iTunes store are marketed to young children. Though this seems to be an expansive opportunity for learning, much skepticism and many inquiries into the content of programs labeled as educational have been made.

For example, many apps said to teach literacy and develop reading skills only provide basic concepts, and many do not go beyond general tasks. They may teach the alphabet, for instance, but often do not capitalize on vocabulary or comprehension. A look at the iTunes app store found that only 5% of the top paid literacy apps related to vocabulary and not one of them went into comprehension or narrative understanding.

Screens and programs can be fast-paced, and many apps that are said to be learning focused have been criticized for being flashy, loud and too distracting for children to focus long enough to learn about the content.

One study examined screen time amounts and the playtime routines of younger kids. Researchers concluded that the children actually played differently when an active screen, in this case a TV, was on.  While a program played, children’s interactions with toys were reduced and the duration and depth of their play was also decreased, even though they were not actively viewing the screen. With the set off, the children focused on the toys and were more involved with playtime activities.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center offers common sense suggestions for educational centered apps geared towards children. These include calling for creating industry standards for merchandise that is labeled as educational. As consumers, only purchasing quality products with established goals that are clearly met can make a difference.

Also necessary is to address the concerns of the digital market with an update of the Children’s Television Act, which was put in effect to safeguard children from unfit commercialism. Further, substantive research models need to be established revolving around digital based learning. Researchers and developers should collaborate to develop quality products and content that meets educational standards.

The App Effect

Image source: flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress

Though research examining children and media based learning is a fairly new territory, as with everything, a balance seems to be the key. Having criteria for the media that children have access to and providing uninterrupted time away from screens and distractions is important, too.


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