Kids baby learning apps educational apps toddlers

Toddler Learning Apps? No Way!

Kids Learning Apps: Are they beneficial for toddlers (0-2 Years)?

If your kid is in the age group of 2-5 Years, you might want to read this blog instead of scrolling down further.

Many parents in India are increasingly using and investing in Learning Programs on TV, Kids Learning Apps on Mobile Phones, Kids Educational Apps and DVDs, Baby Educational videos on Youtube etc. Some parents believe that the ‘interactive’ and ‘audio-visual’ nature of these programs and kids learning apps, enhance learning outcomes in their children. Companies which make these kids educational apps for toddlers claim that these products have been designed by experts. They also claim that using their products advances cognitive, mathematical and language milestones of the child and makes the learning experience more fun. In effect, they claim to be a substitute for the role that a parent or teacher would traditionally play in imparting education to the child.
There is also a certain amount of social peer pressure that comes into play, especially when you see your neighbour buying and using these educational products for his child. As a parent, you naturally do not want to lag behind your neighbour in providing good education for your child! One more reason I have observed is that some parents believe that by exposing the child early to programs and apps on electronic gadgets, they are preparing the child for a digital era in future!

This kind of reasoning is flawed and potentially dangerous, particularly when it comes to infants and toddlers (0 to 2 Years).

What do the Experts say about using Educational Apps for Toddlers?

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines for Infants and Toddlers clearly states that “because of their immature symbolic, memory, and attentional skills, infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers”.[1]

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So, why is it that toddlers cannot learn from digital media as effectively as they do from people around them?

The answer to the question lies in the development of the child’s symbolic skills. Symbolic thought refers to the ability to represent people, objects and events using symbols and images.[2] Very young children do not have well developed symbolic skills.

Their ability to correlate symbols with reality is under-developed. Electronic gadgets and digital media are all symbolic in nature. They represent reality through symbols. Because this skill is under-developed, toddlers fail to understand and use the information communicated to them using various kinds of symbolic media like Videos and Pictures.[3]

An Experiment!

A fascinating experiment explains this better. 2-Year-old children were shown live video on a TV monitor. In this live video, an adult hid their favourite toy in the next room. When they were taken to the next room and asked to retrieve the hidden toy, they could not do so! But when children had directly watched the adult hiding their favourite toy from a window, they could easily retrieve it when asked to do so.[4] This goes on to show that children do NOT view what they see on the screen of electronic gadgets as a direct representation of their reality, at least at toddler age.
Studies also show that parents tend to overestimate the positive impact of learning from these media on their children. Often parents using such products tend to misattribute the natural developmental progress of their child to these products.

Kids Learning and Educational Apps for Toddlers (0 to 2 Years): Key Takeaways
    1. Infants and toddlers learn from parents and other people around them much more effectively than from TV Programs or DVDs. This is applicable to educational apps for toddlers as well.
    2. For infants and toddlers, the quantum of learning from TV Programs, DVDs and Learnings Apps etc. is negligible.
    3. It has already been documented that excessive exposure to any form digital media using electronic gadgets can actually harm the child and delay his/her developmental milestones, especially at this stage.
    4. If you are already using these products, watch out for the misattributing natural progress of your toddler to the efficacy of these programs or products. We recommend that you conduct practical experiments to check the claims of these products.
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Please note that this article is NOT to suggest that all digital media programs or products are not useful for all age groups of children. We have noticed that three factors: 1. Age of the Child, 2. The interactivity of the Program (For example, it has been shown that a 24-Month-Old can learn words from Video chatting with an Adult[5]) and 3. Quality of the Program, seem to largely determine the impact of these learning products and programs. We will explore this complex relationship in detail in other articles on this.

  • Many parents in India are increasingly exposing their toddlers to Learning Programs and Kids Learning Apps available on Smartphones, Tablets and TV.
  • But the important question is: Are these educational apps really useful? And is it possible that they could be harmful? This blog answers these questions.
  • Experts say that electronic gadgets and digital media are all symbolic in nature. Since a toddler’s understanding of these symbols is underdeveloped, these kids learning apps may not be effective for real learning.
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We would love to Hear from You!

Do you agree with experts that most educational apps are not useful? Share the details of the learning apps that you use, if any.

Please share your thoughts in the commenting section below.

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