Age appropriateness: evaluating apps for kids
One of the first things I think about when looking at a new app or ebook is the age appropriateness. As librarians, we’re used to doing this with books, but digital media add another issue into the mix. Now we’re not just talking about the appropriateness of the content, but the functionality. Does a typical 3-year-old have the dexterity to execute the necessary swipes, taps and other gestures needed to move through an ebook or complete tasks in an app? Are the gestures simple, or is the child expected to do two or more things at once? Are the navigation cues in an ebook clear enough for a young child?
With younger children or those who are just starting out with touch-screen technology, you want any touchable elements to be large and obvious enough that they don’t require too much precision or guesswork, but as children grow and develop they become adept at interacting with the screen and can handle more difficulty.
Older children may lose interest in apps or ebooks that are too simple for them, but many apps and games have levels or features that allow the app to grow with the child. Eric Carle’s My Very First App is a good example of this. It’s a memory/matching game, but with three different levels. The easiest level shows only two images at a time. The child swipes across the screen to change an image and is able to match a picture with its color or an animal with its home. The next level is a traditional matching game, with “cards” that the child turns over by touching. The third level is the same game, but with more (and therefore smaller) cards. Each level requires not only a higher level of cognitive development, but also a higher level of dexterity and precision.
With function as with content, we want to choose appropriate resources so that children are engaged and even challenged, but not frustrated or discouraged.