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Are Apps Duping Parents and Teachers?

baby apps-DupedYou’ve seen the situation many times. A restless toddler in a café or doctor’s surgery [insert the name of any place where young children have to wait with little opportunity to play or explore and/or make a noise]. Mum reaches into her bag and searches frantically. Then she pulls ‘it’ out. Silence. Well actually no, not silence. There is usually a flurry of sound effects that are emitted from ‘it’. However, the irritable toddler is silenced. Often completely silent!

This is a scene that happens everywhere. Parents are increasingly handing over their mobile devices to their children. In fact, it has become so common that this social phenomenon even has a name now- “the pass-back effect”.

Parents hand over their digital devices for several reasons: (1) to pacify; (ii) to educate; and (iii) to entertain. Sometimes it is a combination of these reasons or all three. But can children, especially children under 2 years, really be ‘educated’ from an app, as many app developers claim?

Baby & Toddler Apps: Educational or Merely Entertaining?

Can a newborn baby really learn letter names from an app or a 6-month-old recall names of body parts from an app? These are the claims that are made by some app developers targeting babies and toddlers. This has prompted the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) to lodge a complaint with US federal regulators. The Federal Trade Commission has been asked to examine the marketing practices of Fisher-Price’s “Laugh & Learn” mobile apps and Open Solutions’ games, such as “Baby Hear and Read” and “Baby First Puzzle.” Concerns are based on the marketing claims associated with these apps, that they can ‘teach’ babies and toddlers academic concepts such as letter names and body parts. [Remember, CCFC’s allegations against the “Baby Einstein” DVDs eventually led to extensive consumer refunds in 2006.]

So are Parents and Teachers Being Duped into Thinking Apps are More ‘Educational’ than ‘Entertaining’?

Do you feel that you have been duped by app developers? Do you think babies and toddlers can actually learn from apps? Tell me below in the comments.



I’m Dr. Kristy Goodwin

Researcher, speaker, author, and mum - and not only do I GET it, I’ve dedicated my entire career to helping my fellow professionals and parents explore this exact digital dilemma.

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  1. […] There is a preponderance of techno-products marketed towards parents with babies. Many of these gadgets are labeled as ‘educational’. And so parents feel compelled to buy these gadgets and programs for their babies. What parent doesn’t want to give their child a head start? The baby media market is BIG business.   We have the Apptivity Case which offers a dribble- and vomit-proof case for young children. And then there are the corresponding baby learning apps, some of which claim to teach letters and numbers. […]

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