Education

Parents say mobile education apps don’t deliver the goods, but TV still does

Above: A child using an iPad.

Image Credit: Flickr

An iPad is a great digital babysitter for kids in any age group. But are said kids actually learning while they play?

Not really, said parents in a recent survey — and the educational value goes down as the child’s age goes up. What’s worse, parents think their kids actually learn more from TV than from mobile apps.

According to data gathered by education-focused research firm The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, parents are watching their kids spend more time on mobile devices and other screen-based media as they grow, from 1.5 hours per day to 2.5 hours per day. Simultaneously, however, the amount of educational material children consume actually decreases.

As in, Hali is two years old and spends an hour and 15 minutes on his dad’s iPad every day. An hour of that is spent playing educational games. But Hali’s older sister, Lani, uses the iPad for two hours to watch TV and play games, and only about 45 minutes of that time can be classified as educational.

In general, the study found that toddlers spent the most time on educational media (1 hour and 16 minutes per day), while kids in the 8-10 range spent around 42 minutes per day on learning-focused media. Most of that time actually happens on a traditional television, too.

And speaking of TV, the parents in this survey said 52 percent of their kids’ TV viewing was educational, while only 36 percent of their kids’ mobile time was educational. In other words, in spite of a plethora of learning apps, parents think their kids learn less from interactive mobile devices than from the so-called boob tube.

Around 57 percent of parents in this study said that educational media across all form factors did help their kid(s) learn a lot about subjects such as math and reading. But when it comes to the arts and sciences, parents felt less confident that their kids were well taught by screen-based media.

“Most parents don’t consider television (6 percent) or interactive digital media such as computers, video games, and mobile devices (10 percent) to be very important sources of learning,” the report reads.

“Most parents have a relatively balanced view of what constitutes educational media. … Our goal should be to help parents be as accurately discerning as possible in their media choices, even as we work to raise the quality of all media for children.”

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