Digital Natives: Kids and Apps - Nosy Crow Skip to content
Posted on January 24, 2011

Digital Natives: Kids and Apps

My 4-year-old wears sneakers with Velcro straps. My 6-year-old’s shoes have laces, but he often comes home with the strings flying, his heels popping out of the soles. Once, he arrived missing a sock. His sneaker had fallen off at recess, and after stepping in a puddle, he threw his sock in the trash. He was too busy to stop playing and tie the laces.

Nevertheless, my boys are technologically savvy. They can turn on my iPad, find their favorite apps and get them running without my help. And according to a new study, they’re right in line with their peers. Here’s a clip from a Wall Street Journal story:

In a recent survey, 14% of kids age 4 or 5 could tie their shoes, while 21% could play or operate at least one smartphone app.

In the same study, which polled 2,200 mothers in several developed countries, 22% of children that age knew at least one Web address, 34% could open a Web browser and 76% could play an online computer game. By comparison, 31% knew to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, 35% could get their own breakfast (which we assume doesn’t mean making eggs) and 53% knew their home address…

The study also found some interesting differences among countries — like the fact that 30% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 in the U.S. could operate smartphone apps, while 11% of kids in Japan could. About 70% of young children in the U.K. and France could play computer games, compared with 61% in the U.S. and 44% in Japan.

Since I began consulting to Nosy Crow, preparing to publicize the launch of the 3-D Three Little Pigs app, I’ve seen firsthand how easy it is for children to learn digital skills. In fact, they take to the screen much more intuitively than adults.

My boys have tested the Three Little Pigs app at various stages of development, and where an adult might fumble with the screen, trying to figure out how to make the pigs talk, run and jump, the boys just get it. Most importantly, from my perspective, the app is reinforcing their reading skills. They read the words while the narrator speaks. They direct the dialogue by tapping on the characters, and my 6-year-old uses the Read By Myself feature.

What’s even more interesting is the way the app has sparked small bursts of creativity when they aren’t using the iPad. Several months ago, my older son wrote a short story of the Three Little Pigs on his own initiative. No prompting whatsoever.

Most recently, as I was making dinner one night, both boys grabbed paper and pens and, lo and behold, started designing their own apps. My 4-year-old drew a crane with a wrecking ball that knocked down a building. He made several screens, and in each one the building got bigger and bigger. As for my 6-year-old, his app is a story of a monkey trying to get bananas from a tree. In each scene, the screens gets harder as the monkey dodges flying coconuts, lightening bolts and snow balls.

Truth be told, they had recently seen a news story about a 14-year-old boy who had created a best selling app called Bubble Ball. They decided that they, too, wanted to make their own apps.

So are they on their way to writing complex computer code? Not quite yet. But they are way ahead of their parents. And even if they can’t tie their shoes, I have no doubt they’ll be just fine.

Now could someone please design a shoelace tying app?

— This post was written by U.S.-based marketing consultant, Andi Silverman who is helping us promote our first app next month.

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