But before they download that app, parents should give these online platforms a second look. “There are so many choices in the App Store and Google Play store,” said Christine Elgersma, senior editor of social media and learning resources for Common Sense Media, which evaluates educational apps. “Many of them are labeled as educational, but maybe don’t offer the best educational experience.
In-app purchases, especially when they’re required for a child to progress in a game or app, can be costly and take the emphasis off learning. “If there’s a huge list of in-app purchases, that can be a red flag and you definitely want to make sure your kids can’t just click through,” Elgersma said. 2.
Educational games and apps should encourage that. “I always ask myself a question when thinking about educational platforms, ‘When a child is engaging with this work, who is responsible for the original act of creation — is it the developer or the child? ’” she said. “The biggest learning happens with the original developer of the idea.
Here are eight questions parents should ask when evaluating online learning platforms or educational games aimed at kids, especially those ages 3-10.
Online learning platforms and software companies are seeking to rise to that challenge, touting claims that kids will stay on track through playing their educational games and activities.
Some early-learning apps let kids put together a puzzle or trace letters — activities that kids can do without a screen. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it doesn’t offer an experience that requires a screen unless you’re traveling and you can’t give your kid a puzzle,” Elgersma said.
Instead of being motivated to master a math concept, a child is focused on achieving a higher level to access a reward. “It’s not about learning, it’s ‘how can I get to the next level? ‘” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “It takes away the motivation of learning.
The platform should encourage a child to continue learning offline. “You may do different letters or numbers on the screen, but what you’re really trying to do is get that information to leap off the screen into real-world applications,” Anderson said.
Kids can run through math drills on a computer, but, for young children, learning requires a whole-body experience.