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What are the Possible Benefits of App Use in Children?

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, I have been relying more on screens to keep Madi busy.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic I would rarely let Madi play apps with the exception of when we were flying. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, she is allowed to play on an app for 30 minutes every other day. Given that Madi is now playing apps more regularly, I wanted to learn if apps are considered screen-time and if there are any benefits?

The use of educational apps is considered screen time as per the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  For children aged 3 to 5, it is recommended that they have less than 1 hour of screen time per day. 

What are the potential benefits of educational apps?

Some educational apps have shown efficacy in teaching literacy skills to preschoolers. It is important to find the apps that have been developed by educators or have had input by child development specialists.  It is important to note that some apps under the “education” section in the app store are not based on an established curriculum.

What is the best way to use an app?

The CPS and AAP recommend:

  • Monitor the apps that are being used and test them out before your child uses them!
  • Play together
  • Ask your child what he or she thinks about the app
  • Combine touch screen use with creative or active play

What do I do?

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and preschool cancelled, Madi and I have been playing more apps together. Prior to purchasing a new app I review it in the app store to see if there are any education benefits to it. I sit next to her while she is playing the app.  Often I use this time to catch up on work but I frequently check in with her to see if she is enjoying the app. 

This post was co-authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP .

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