Channeling Positive Tablet Usage To Foster Childhood Development

Editor’s note: Yuval Kaminka is co-founder and CEO of JoyTunes

“Kids spend too much time on tablets and smartphones, not enough time outside!”

“They are losing key skills because they are spending too much time on video games and apps!”

We hear statements like these constantly, but the fact is, technology is a part of our lives, including our children’s, and that isn’t likely to change. Instead of looking at tech as the ogre, why not consider the types of apps, games and programs children are using?

Research from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center shows that less than half of the screen time for kids between ages 2-10 involves “educational” material. Parents should look for more positive and productive ways for kids to interact with devices. Screen time, if monitored and channeled properly, can provide meaningful experiences and outcomes for children. 

Studies have shown that students can lose up to two months of mathematical and computational skills during summer break. Low-income students are particularly affected: they can lose over two months in critical reading skills during the summer. Low-cost, educational gaming apps can help students retain knowledge while still allowing students to enjoy time off.

When children are allowed to learn through play, there is far less time spent on behavior management. Educational gaming apps and programs allow kids to have fun while simultaneously providing critical skills and knowledge.

The entertainment value of gaming can motivate users to accomplish tasks that are normally viewed as boring. A joint NYU/CUNY study found that “well-designed games can motivate students to learn less popular subjects, such as math, and that game-based learning can actually get students interested in the subject matter—and can broaden their focus beyond just collecting stars or points.”

Many teachers have employed this practice in classroom learning; and programs and apps extend this important practice throughout the year and on the weekends for in-home learning.

Play-based learning helps kids focus on the task at hand rather than outside distractions. With games, kids can dive in and focus on problem-solving and other critical skills. Certain video games have been found to improve strategic thinking and help the brain to become more agile.

Our app, JoyTunes, acts a musical education game, with gamification supplementing traditional music pedagogy. Additionally, apps like Learn with Homer and Operation Math are helping kids improve reading, vocabulary and math skills by using spy themes, clever animations and leader boards where kids can rack up points. Learn with Homer helps early childhood learners with critical skills like converting sounds to letters, letters to words, and words to ideas through play which has been proven to help fight learning loss and increase school readiness. Similarly, Operation Math keeps kids engaged through often mundane math drills by leading them on a spy adventure while completing activities like multiplication and division.

Combining learning with the enjoyment of video gaming can help students learn across all subjects. Parents who want to ensure that their children enjoy positive screen-time should pay close attention to the types of content being downloaded. Many tech companies are working to ensure the growing amount of time children spend with apps, tablets and smartphones is not only fun but fruitful.