Are Young Children’s Apps Babysitters for the Digital Age?

Whenever I tell parents that I am a co-founder of a startup that builds children’s apps, I usually get a mix of reactions. Some thinks it’s great that we make apps that their kids are enjoying, but many times I meet parents who don’t allow their young kids access to Apple or Android devices. There is clearly a perception among some parents that these apps are simply “digital babysitters” that aren’t good for kids. This perception is reinforced by organizations like the
American Academy of Pediatrics which has issued recommendations that kids younger than two be “screen-free”, and that screen time should be limited for older kids.

As a maker of educational apps that target kids between the ages of two to five, parents’ attitudes on these issues are clearly very important to us. To better understand how parents are purchasing and using theses apps, we decided to do a survey of our customer base and now we can share the findings with you!


To start with, we were very interested to find out which group of parents is most likely to purchase apps for their kids. We found that the vast majority (88%) of the purchases where made by women. Furthermore, we discovered that 63% of the purchases are by a parent aged 25 to 34, by far the largest cohort. This corresponds well to the expected age of moms with young children.

In the second part of the survey, we wanted to answer the question of “are parents buying these apps simply as digital babysitters?” To answer this, we posed a number of survey questions that approach it from different angles. First, we wanted to understand how true is the stereotype that parents are simply handing the phones to children, and are disengaged from the play experience. As it turns out, a very healthy 39% of parents play apps with their kids, another 9% of kids play with siblings, and 4% play with friends. Our data shows that 53% of the kids do play alone sometimes. While this number is clearly substantial, the percent of parents who “co-play” is not far behind.

We also asked the parents what were the reasons they downloaded the apps. Anecdotally, we knew that fun and educational value were two important criteria for purchase, but we had no idea what the relative weights were. Based on the survey result, we discovered that it’s a virtual tie between these two value propositions – with educational value stated slightly more often at 49% versus 46% for “fun”.

Lastly, we wanted to get a sense for when parents are letting kids play the apps. Once again, there is a common stereotype that parents are predominantly using these devices to distract kids while driving or doing chores. As it turns out, 53% of the parents let the kid play with the device whenever they ask for it – much like the way parents may let kids play with their favorite toy. This is followed by “when I need to distract him” (22%), “when I want him to learn” (18%), and “when I am driving” (17%). Based on this data, we believe that while keeping kids occupied is an important driver, learning and general play are at least equally important.

In conclusion, our survey confirms that young moms are the primary purchaser of kid’s apps. It also paints a nuanced picture of how parents are using these apps with their kids. While many of the stereotypical use cases are indeed common, it’s clear that co-playing and learning are just as important to parents. I believe that as app developers, our challenge is to continue to meet both sets of needs responsibly by designing engaging and educational products.

As for all the parents out there looking for great apps in the store, I recommend investigating platforms such as Famigo, Clean App Network , or YogiPlay that have aggregated a great collection of kid-oriented software. Also, there are many kids app review sites that do wonderful jobs of filtering out good vs bad kids app. Some of our favorites are Fun Educational Apps, iHeartThisApp, The iPhone Mom, Best Apps for Kids, The iMums, and Smart Apps for Kids. Finally, sites like MomsWithApps often feature apps by great kid’s app developers.

77SPARX Studio is a maker of quality children’s apps such as PUZZINGO Puzzles. Please visit us at or email

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3 Responses to “Are Young Children’s Apps Babysitters for the Digital Age?”


  1. Two Organizations Transforming Education | Famigo Blog - December 20, 2012

    […] Read more about 77Sparx’s study here. […]

  2. App Friday Weekly News - - December 21, 2012

    […] Infographic and article about how families are using iDevices, by Andrew Kao. […]

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