Nurseries could play a 'vital role' in advising parents on suitable apps for children

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A new report recommends early years settings provide parents with guidance on the type of apps that support children’s learning.

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According to the report, young children are commonly using apps that are meant for an older audience

Based upon a survey of 2,000 mothers and fathers of children aged five and under, it suggests early years settings and schools provide parents with ‘extensive’ advice on the types of apps that are appropriate for the promotion of play and creativity, as children of this age are commonly using apps that are aimed at an older audience.

Parents who took part in the survey cited Angry Birds, YouTube and Candy Crush Saga as among their children’s top ten favourite apps. They also revealed that on average children use a tablet for one hour and 19 minutes every weekday and one hour and 23 minutes on weekends. A third have their own device.

The research, 'Exploring Play and Creativity in Pre-Schoolers', was carried out by the universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh in partnership with CBeebies, production company Foundling Bird, technology developer Dubit and Monteney Primary School in Sheffield.

Peter Winter, information communication technology teacher at Monteney Primary School, said, ‘Teachers could be a valuable source of information for parents on apps that have educational value through the use of Twitter feeds, blogs and/ or newsletters. Offering guidance in these areas is crucial if parents are going to help their children to use digital tools effectively.’

The report also warns that many age-appropriate apps include adverts for other apps and feature pop-ups for in-app purchases, which hamper children’s play and creativity. As such, it says that parents need to be careful when they choose apps for their young children to play.

Principal investigator Professor Jackie Marsh of the University of Sheffield’s School of Education said, ‘Our study showed that the use of apps on tablets by pre-schoolers can be very productive and foster a wide range of play and creativity. However, apps need to be chosen carefully by parents for this age-group.

‘Apps that contain adverts and pop-ups for in-app purchases can limit children’s play. In addition, whilst children of this age want to play some of the same games that their older siblings or parents play, these are not age-appropriate and do not offer a great deal of value for pre-schoolers.’

Other recommendations within the report include:

  • Making sure children have access to tablets in early years settings and schools if they do not have a device at home;
  • Developing further guidance for early years practitioners on how to use tablets and how to choose apps that promote play and creativity for pre-school children. This guidance could be circulated by key organisations;
  • Ensuring app developers are informed about design aspects of apps that promote play and creativity for pre-school children.
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