Entertaining a crying toddler can be difficult. Five years ago moms would have said, “Bring on the coloring books and crayons!” But now parents everywhere are chiming in with, “Take my phone, pick an app, and keep yourself busy.”
“There’s an App for That.”
The diaper bag filled with entertaining goodies may be gone after a couple years, but the need to keep your kids occupied definitely doesn’t go away for a long time. Parents used to turn to toys and books, but now we have better technology. To quote the motto of smartphone users everywhere, “there’s an app for that.” Moms and dads have long been engaging their kids through electronics — TV shows, movies, video games, computers — and are now recognizing that smartphones have a similar entrancing effect on the kiddos. They are the perfect solution for bored kids at a restaurant, in the car, or wherever else they would be prone to complain.
The “Pass Back” Effect
According to a content analysis by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, almost half of the top 100-selling apps in the iTunes Apps store were for preschool or elementary-aged kids in November of 2009. Carly Shuler, a fellow at the Center, says this is evidence of the “pass back” effect — when parents pass their phone back to bored kids. Adults are quickly realizing the capability of smartphones as on-the-go learning and entertainment devices. Now this phenomenon is turning into an industry-wide trend. Even AT&T has noticed what is happening — a new commercial features Luke Wilson passing back a smartphone to a crying child in a restaurant. Shuler said that app developers are acknowledging the new wave of smartphone uses by creating more apps for little kids, even though they know they’re obviously not the ones buying them.
Everyone Has ‘Em
The big non-shocker is that almost all children in the US have access to a cell phone. A 2007 study found that 93% of six to nine year olds have access to one at home and more than 30% have their own. Shuler said these figures have only increased since the study was conducted two years ago.
Smartphones Are Perfect for Little Fingers
According to Shuler’s research, apps for children tend to be less expensive than apps for adults, but that’s not the only reason smartphones are a hit with the kids. “When you look at the design of the iPhone … the interface is very tactile and well suited to what a child naturally does,” Shuler said. “They think with their fingers. If they see something they like, they’ll jab at it and touch it. And children love flipping things. If you flip the iPhone, something will happen. If you shake the iPhone, something will happen.” “They like to play with things their parents have,” she continued. “Considering how much time parents spend on [their phones], it makes sense that kids would want them, too.” Considering this, it’s no surprise that children like to play with any electronic gizmos, not just phones.
Take Advantage of Your Resources
“Take pictures with your kids,” Shuler recommended. “Or pull out the calculator and ask your kid to help add up what the groceries are going to cost. These are really powerful devices.” How lucky we are to have such advanced but simple resources today; kids may be saying goodbye to coloring books and crayons for good!