The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day for children ages two and up—and those screens include televisions, computers, smart phones, and whatever e-reader is in your house. But with tens of thousands of apps for children available, what’s a kid to do?
At this week’s Digital Book World conference in New York City, Rick Richter, CEO of the children’s book and media publisher Rukus Media Group, discussed apps for kids in the panel “Emerging Models for Children’s Book Publishing.” According to GalleyCat, the online eye on publishing, “Richter said that there are about 30,000 kids’ apps in Apple’s App Store and about 27,000 horrible kids’ apps.” Richter went on to tell his audience of electronic media decision makers, “There are a lot of kids’ books out there, but in the print world there are retailers and book clubs that curate the space. We do not have that curator in the app world. We need that curator that cares about apps for kids, that cares about quality for kids.”
At their best, apps can inspire learning and creativity with a read-along version of The Cat in the Hat, an entertaining alphabet tutorial, or a Technicolor digital drawing board. At their worst, they simply kill time and maybe brain cells. Wired’s “GeekDad” columnist Daniel Donahoo lays out criteria for developers to keep in mind when rolling out new kids’ apps in 2011, in an effort to improve quality control of what ends up in front of the e-world’s youngest customers. In the meantime, there are sites like Best Apps for Kids that give star ratings to kids’ e-books, games, and tutorials.
While the AAP may reshape their screen-time parameters as the educational value of apps and other online media keep improving, for now kids will have to ration their time for Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, and the latest download from the Apple Store. (Note: Approved access to the old-fashioned book remains unlimited.)