How to choose among the applications for children

The majority of so-called educational digital applications would not offer real learning opportunities for toddlers, says an American study. Currently, there is no standard regulating the use of the term “educational content” to describe the applications available for tablets or smartphones. Moreover, from a scientific point of view, we still know very little about the effects of these applications on the development of the child, the researchers remind us. It can be difficult for a parent to determine whether an application is educational or not.

The authors of the study established 5 criteria to evaluate the educational potential of an application:

– The application requires a real mental effort and limits passive activities such as repetitive scanning of the screen. The kids academy talented & gifted programs can be considered.

– The child can therefore be actively involved when using the application.

– The child can concentrate without being distracted by sound effects and pop-up windows.

– The child can make connections between his environment and the information presented in the application. It guides his exploration, but allows him to make his discoveries in his own way without imposing a way of thinking. For example, an application that prompts him to photograph triangular objects will be more conducive to learning than an application where the child simply identifies a triangle among other shapes.
– The app encourages social interaction, with real people, through discussion, conversation or competition. Some applications offer the possibility to work in groups on a drawing or enigma. Others encourage the child to discuss with his parents new things he has learned using the app.

However, there is no harm in letting a child have fun with a non-educational app on occasion, the researchers say. Parents should be aware, however, that even so-called educational applications can’t replace other more challenging activities like pretending with a friend or reading with an adult. The recommendations on the screen time also apply in the same way for these applications as for television or video games.

The screen time

According to the Canadian Sedentary Behavior Guidelines for Early Childhood, children 2 to 4 years old should not spend more than 1 hour per day in front of a screen and 5 years and older, not more than 2 hours. As for children under 2, they should not be exposed to screens.

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