The Great App Debate

Being the parent of two children, ages eight and two, I am all too familiar with how easily kids today are able to navigate mobile devices. It seems like my two year old was born knowing how to play with an iPad. It’s almost as instinctive as drinking from a bottle or sucking on a pacifier. Every time I purchase an app for my kids I wonder if other parents use the same method I do in terms of what they purchase. Do they really take the time to research the app or do they just download it to keep the kids happy?

Back when Apple launched iOS 7, they introduced the “Kids” category in their app store. Before this category was introduced, users had to dig deep into the depths of the store to find kids apps. Today, they have gone a step further and split the thousands of kids apps into three age categories including 5 and under, ages 6-8 and ages 9-11. For parents like myself, this is a dream come true. I know longer have to worry about age appropriate apps and can let them search based on the criteria I set.

A 2013 survey by PBS Kids revealed that the biggest factor (80%) that influenced a parent’s decision when purchasing a specific app was the educations content. Price came in second at 56%. The survey also showed that many parents (including me) would testify that the best way to both educate and entertain children is via characters that their kids already know and will enjoy playing with. Only 27% said that the brand that made the app was important.


After finding this survey, it is refreshing to know that other parents are active participants in what their kids download and play with. I also find it comforting to know that app developers are creating the apps to appeal to both audiences. It’s much easier, and causes less meltdowns in my household, when we can all agree on an app.

PBS Kids, the number-one and most trusted kids’ educational media brand and the source of educational media used most often by preschool teachers, offers these five tips to help parents navigate successful selection and use of apps:

1. Think about what your child is passionate about: Look for content that builds on your child’s excitement. Media should engage kids and spark their curiosity about the world around them.
2. Distinguish what is truly educational: Consider whether the content of the app is curriculum and research-based. Mobile platforms can amplify learning for children.
3. Develop a media plan for your family: A balanced media diet includes setting limits. This is also something that parents can keep in mind, too, as kids often model their parents’ behavior.
4. Play together: For kids 2 and up, apps are another opportunity to explore with your child. Talking with kids about the game or activity as you play offers both the opportunity to bond as a family and also identify teachable moments.
5. Avoid apps that try to sell: Select apps from trusted, reliable sources, and make sure that they are not trying to market to your child.


One thought on “The Great App Debate

  1. bdowler says:

    Hi Tara,

    Great post. I am not a parent, but I am close with my little cousins, and they have their own iPads. I have also witnessed them use their parents’ phones quite frequently. And I have frequently wonder the same thing that you have. As I have watched them play these apps while we are out to dinner, I have wondered if the parents really know what their kids are actually doing. Did they just hand them the phone to appease them or do they know the apps they are using?

    I think educational apps can be wonderful for children. But I definitely hope there are more parents that follow your strategy!


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