NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Toddlers and Education Apps

October 18, 2013

The first iPad was released in April 2010. Three years later, a Pew Internet survey found that half of American parents with children at home own a tablet computer. Mosey on over to the iTunes app store, and nine of the top 10 paid education apps are designed for small children, ages four and up. Four year olds will shape the future of education technology (edtech), long before they ever set foot in a kindergarten classroom, says Alex Hernandez, a partner and leader of the "next-generation" learning investments at the Charter School Growth Fund.

But parents are still not fully sold on kids and tablets.

  • According to the Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology survey, only 37 percent of parents who own a mobile device say they would offer it to their children to keep them busy.
  • Seventy-eight percent would allow their kids to watch TV for the same purpose.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) helps set the record straight on how technology harms young children. NAEYC's shocking and courageous verdict (after a long list of caveats): "When used appropriately, technology and media can enhance children's [ages 0 to 8] cognitive and social abilities."

Dr. Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, acknowledges that learning to use technology at an early age will have an impact on child development, just as learning to read rewires our brains. It's just too early to know what kind of impact. The technology is so new that there can't be any empirical evidence. Like so many things in life, parents will have to use their best judgment.

Source: Alex Hernandez, "Toddlers and Tablets," Education Next, October 2013.


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