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Mobile ‘pass-back’ effect in full swing, says Sesame Workshop and PBS report

A recent report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop has found that parents doubt the educational value of mobile apps, but are still in support of new experimentation on the platform.
November 10, 2010

A recent report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop has found that parents doubt the educational value of mobile apps, but are still in support of new experimentation on the platform.

The report entitled Learning: Is there an app for that?, conducted in collaboration with PBS KIDS Raising Readers and Hotspex, underscores the growing phenomenon of the pass-back effect, wherein parents hand smartphones, like the iPhone, to their young kids. The report found that two-thirds of US children ages four to seven have used an iPhone or iPod touch and 85% have used one owned by a parent. Children most often use the devices when they are passed-back by a parent while in a car.

The report has also found evidence that kids can learn from apps. Mobile applications based on PBS Kids programs Martha Speaks and Super Why! were independently evaluated by 90 children ages three to seven who played with them for two weeks. Children made gains in vocabulary comprehension, letter-identification and rhyming after using the apps.

The report also concludes that young children are adept at using smart mobile devices. Nearly all of the children observed in the studies could master operations, even after initial difficulty.

The report outlines recommendations for building well-designed educational apps, citing that applications should center on relevant, age-appropriate content that balances engagement with learning and account for children’s developing motor skills; hold user interest through specific educational goals and incentives; be used as supplemental learning tools that highlight goals in literacy, math and science; inform parents about the devices’ capabilities as a learning tool.

The iPhone, iPod touch and iPad dominate the top three spots on children’s holiday wish lists this year, according a Duracell poll of children in the UK. A 2009 content analysis conducted by The Cooney Center revealed that 60% of the 25 top-selling paid applications in the education section of the iTunes App Store target toddlers and preschoolers. In addition, a Kaiser Family Foundation study that children spend an average of about one hour per day using mobile devices.

Learning: Is there an app for that? is available for download on The Cooney Center website at http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/Reports.html

About The Author
Wendy is Kidscreen’s Associate Editor. When she’s not sourcing material for the brand's daily email newsletter, she’s researching, writing and connecting with others about the newest trends in digital media. Contact Wendy at wgoldman@brunico.com.

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