Despite claims made by the so-called "educational" apps that turn out to be nothing more than just digital candies, researchers have identified features that parents should seek out while selecting the right apps for their kids.
There are now over 80,000 apps marketed as "educational" in the Apple app store, the majority of which are targeted towards children and even babies.
In the comprehensive report, study co-author Hirsh-Pasek from Temple University and an interdisciplinary team of researchers have advised parents to avoid apps that keep children's attention through passive activities, like repetitive swiping.
Instead, they should look for apps that require real mental effort and depend on the child's active participation. Avoid apps that feature a lot of distracting "bells and whistles." Instead, look for apps that support sustained engagement with the task at hand, the report noted.
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Apps that don't involve the most powerful learning resource we have -- other humans -- may not help your kids shine. Instead, look for apps that encourage social interaction via discussion, competition, or conversation, the researchers recommended.
In place of apps that tell your child what to know, look for the ones that use guided exploration to help your child discover new information on their own terms.
"In the end, if an app seems too good to be true, it probably is," researchers said.
"Many apps make dramatic promises -- from teaching advanced concepts to infants or even changing your child's brain," said Jennifer Zosh from Penn State University, Brandywine.
"Parents should use common sense and remember that an app -- even an educational app -- is just an app, not a miracle," Zosh noted.
The report was published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.