The prevalence of mobile technology among kids and teens gained in momentum in 2014 – for both educational purposes as well as fun & games. We have here pointed out some key trends from last year related to this field.
Recent survey reports have revealed that close to 58% of kids in the 8-12 age group have smartphones of their own. The figure goes up to a whopping 78% when it comes to children and teens in the 13-17 age range. Right from the ever-increasing influence of mobile technology for education and the practice of taking photos with smartphones, to downloading kids’ apps and reading digital books – everything points to the fact that mobile devices are finding growing acceptance in the everyday lives of young ones, including toddlers. What’s more, parents/teachers are mostly convinced about the benefits of mobile apps for kids. Let us here highlight some remarkable trends related to the usage of mobile technology among children:
- Growth of mobile storytelling apps – 2014 was the year that really saw the rise of reading apps for kids. An average K-12 student read around 15 printed books in the year – but the figure shot up to 25 when it came to books in digital format (saved in their mobile devices). Apart from general mobile applications, reading apps optimized for tablets also got a significant spurt in demand.
- Mobile usage gets greater nod from parents worldwide – 7 out of every 10 parents approve their son’s/daughter’s regular usage of mobile gadgets (mostly, iPads). 8-9 free apps for kids are downloaded on the devices, before they are handed over to the young ones. Mobile games and learning apps figure in the most popular among them.
- Mobile apps and toddlers – Thanks to mobile app companies churning out hundreds of interesting Android and iPhone apps for kids in 2014, even toddlers have started getting acquainted with smartphones and tablets with greater gusto. A measly 10% of babies under the age of 1 use mobile devices – but among toddlers in the 2-4 age group, the same metric was almost 40%. Around 55% of kids under the age of 8 have, or at least use, smartphones/tablets regularly.
- Greater diversification of purpose – As mobile technology has advanced, the purposes for which it is being used have also expanded. At present, around 44% children make use of educational apps for kids, while an overwhelming 60% are accessing the web connectivity features of phones/tablets for research purposes. Social networking via mobile apps also witnessed significant growth in 2014, with nearly 40% kids having apps for social connections. Photo-taking apps for children were a hit too, with 1 out of every 4 kids with a smartphone happily snapping about!
- Inclusion of mobile devices as a part of education technology – In the United States at present, over 88% schools allow senior students to use web-enabled mobile learning apps and other such resources. This is comfortably more than the percentage of students of the same level who use laptops (60%). Around half of all third, fourth and fifth graders are also allowed access to the mobile web technology. The scenario is roughly the same in most other countries in the West.
- Apps emerge as ‘better’ tools to bolster vocabulary – Mobile educational apps have increased the skill to bolster overall vocabulary and letter-learning skills among preschoolers by around 18%, confirm teachers and parents from all over. Once kids have started going to school (i.e., 5-year olds), the importance of mobile applications as a supplementary tool for vocabulary enhancement goes up even further. Children who learn words via apps are found to be nearly 27% more fluent in their languages, than those who don’t.
- Popularity of iPads remain intact – Tablet sales might have slacked off in general – but for kids, iPads still remain most parents’ first-choice. This stems from the fact that the larger tablets tend to be more accidental damage-proof than the more delicate smartphones. Experts also opine that reading stories off the large iPad screens is less strenuous for the eyes, than doing the same from the relatively smaller smartphone screens. Of course, as far as interaction method is concerned, touchscreen devices are the best for kids.
- Total number of parents purchasing mobile devices for their kids – Instead of letting sons/daughters use their own phones and tablets, parents have become more enthusiastic in buying kid-friendly mobile devices for the latter. A survey conducted a few weeks ago revealed that well over 35 million parents across the world either bought, or were planning to buy a smartphone or a tablet for their kids in 2014. The spurt in the download of mobile apps for kids is, hence, hardly surprising.
- Probable ill-effects on general activity levels – The white-hot mobile revolution has more than its fair share of good points, but there is one bane – children are getting addicted to technology a tad too much. A mid-2014 study found that around 23% children used kids’ apps on advanced mobile gadgets regularly, but more than half of them could not even tie their own shoelaces. Yet another comparison can be highlighted in this context: while hardly 20% of kids in same age group knew how to swim, over 70% of them were comfortable with working/playing/reading on computers and laptops.
- Mobile games hold the numero uno position – Educational apps for kids have found mass acceptance among kids and parents, but they are still not the most popular type of kids’ apps. That position would, rather predictably, go to mobile gaming apps. Learning applications come in a distant second (75% vs 57%), while travel and entertainment related apps take up the third spot. Somewhat surprisingly, social networking apps for kids do not find too many takers.
- Girls vs Boys – Gone are the days when playing video games was a boy’s prerogative, and girls were only interested in their dolls and teddies. In fact, for many top-selling gaming apps for kids, it has been found that the total number of users include more girls than boys. On an average, there is no gender-based difference to speak of, as far as interest in mobile games and interactive apps are concerned.
- Kids help parents to download apps – Maybe not the toddlers – but young kids/teens have been found to download and install iPhone/Android apps on their parents’ devices. Around 31% of all the applications in the smartphone/tablet of an adult is likely to have been downloaded by his/her kid, for the latter’s use. Parents no longer have to hunt for good mobile apps for children – the latter have started taking up this responsibility themselves!
- Awareness about digital footprint – Kids and young adults have grown more aware of their online profile(s) than ever before. 45% of mobile and computer-using kids in the US believe that maintenance of a positive digital footprint is key to their overall growth in future. In a survey study, 64% of respondents reported that they are cautious about what they post on the web (or the details they share). Around 4 out of every 10 children even give advice to their friends regarding what the latter should post/share via mobile apps.
- Educational apps are getting customized for elementary learning – Nearly 75% of all the educational apps for kids currently present at iTunes are meant specifically for preschoolers and/or junior students. There was no dearth of companies who jumped in the bandwagon in 2014, claiming to have developed the best iPhone apps for children. While there are a few worthless ones, most of these apps do have educational value in some way or the other.
Studies have confirmed that close to 80% parents believe that regular usage of mobile technology is good for their kids. With professional lives of adults getting busier than ever, around 23% parents regularly download children’s apps to keep them engaged. There is a growing belief that mobile apps can bolster creative skills in a child too. Encouraged by parents and teachers, and charmed by the intriguing nature of the different genres of mobile apps, kids accepted mobile gadgets as an integral part of their lives last year. In 2015, this trend is expected to become even stronger.
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