Apps for Kids: Too Much of a Good Thing?

We have several moms working in the office at Child’s Play Communications, and a recent post on the Wall Street Journal Digits blog generated a good chuckle around the water cooler last week.  The headline?  “Learning to Play Angry Birds before You Can Tie Your Shoes.”

As i-phones and i-pads have quickly become ubiquitous among urban families, it was just a matter of time before a study confirmed what most parents already knew – technology is shifting the way an entire generation of children learns.  The survey, released by AVG Technologies, found that while only 14% of kids ages 4 and 5 could tie their shoes, 21% could operate at least one smartphone app and 34% could open a Web browser.  And while 76% of the same children could play an online computer game, only 31% knew to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency.

And there is no sign that our appetite for apps is cooling.  According to a recent article in the Boston Globe entitled “Apps Push Parents’ Buttons,” the app market will continue to boom.  “There are already more than 300,000 apps…. The number of downloads is expected to hit 76.9 billion worldwide in 2014,” wrote Beth Teitell.  “Exact figures on apps for children are hard to come by, but specialists expect the children’s market to grow with the rest of the field.”

So how much is too much of a good thing?  We love kids’ apps for their entertainment value and, to some degree, their educational virtues. But when kids become more adept at playing Angry Birds than mastering key developmental milestones, some of us are left wondering if this shift is more alarming than amusing.