The Dos and Don'ts of a Good Toddler App
If you've felt that pang of guilt as you hand your iPhone to the screaming toddler in the backseat, help is here! Common Sense Media weighs in on what makes a good (or bad!) smartphone app for the little ones
Toddlers love life’s simple pleasures, like ice cream and hide-and-seek, but any parent knows the immeasurable allure of that certain gadget: the smartphone.
“A lot of parents use their devices around their kids and there is definitely an attraction there on the child’s part. Their moms have something and they want to use it,” says mother of two Ingrid Simone, a senior editor at the San Francisco-based non-profit Common Sense Media.
Child health experts haven’t exactly been enamored with the trend, warning that children age 2 and older shouldn’t spend more than an hour or two in front of a screen—including television—per day. (And for those under 2? No TV at all.) The good news is that if your screen of choice is a smartphone or tablet, you’ll have your pick of apps designed especially for young children.
“It’s been sort of a natural progression in children’s toys,” Simone said.
Of course, not all apps are created equal. Common Sense Media posts reviews of tech tools geared for kids and Simone, who specializes in apps, said parents should be wary of those that include too much activity or pointless distractions.
A storybook app, for instance, shouldn’t include meaningless “bells and whistles” that aren’t relevant to the actual story. A recent study, Simon noted, found that children’s reading comprehension can suffer if there are too many distractions in e-books.
Another sign of a bad app? Those that don’t mesh with how a 2-year-old physically interacts with a smart device.
“They have little hands and little fingers feeling all over the place—an app that doesn’t take that into account is a bad app,” Simone said.
“Anything that can help a child figure out how he or she relates to the world is great,” she said.
But perhaps no one can better help a child relate to her world than her own parent—so much for handing junior an iPad and burying yourself in a novel!—so Common Sense Media also gives high marks to apps that encourage parent participation.
Overall, parents should look for apps that combine education and fun.
“A good app that is educational is going to be entertaining,” Simone said.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN