Tots & Tech: Navigating the World of Educational Apps. What You Need to Know!

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Smartphones and Apps for Toddlers: Why It’s Not a Good Idea

In today’s digital age, smartphones have become an integral part of our daily lives, offering convenience, entertainment, and instant access to information.

However, when it comes to toddlers and young children, the question is:

Is introducing smartphones at an early age beneficial or harmful?

Let’s delve into why smartphones for toddlers aren’t a good idea.

Developmental Concerns

Toddlers are in a crucial stage of development, where hands-on exploration and interaction with the physical world play a vital role in their learning process. Excessive screen time can hinder their motor skills, social interactions, and cognitive development.

Screen Time Guidelines

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends avoiding screen time for children younger than 18 months, except for video chatting. For children aged 2 to 5 years, screen time should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programming, preferably watched with a parent to help them understand what they are seeing.

Physical Health Risks

Extended screen time can lead to sedentary behaviour, increasing the risk of obesity and other health issues in young children. Additionally, exposure to blue light emitted from screens can disrupt their sleep patterns, affecting their overall well-being.

Potential for Addiction

Early exposure to smartphones can lead to a dependency on screens, making it challenging for young children to engage in offline activities and develop essential life skills. This can also lead to behavioural issues, such as tantrums, difficulty concentrating, and poor self-regulation.

Lots of people I work with say that surely an educational app that teaches their toddlers numbers, colours or letters is a good thing – but to be honest they learn far more from you in normal human interaction that they do from a passive app – it also boils down to the quality of the app.

Educational Apps for Toddlers: Do They Really Help?

With an abundance of educational apps available for toddlers, parents often turn to these digital tools as a way to enhance their child’s learning experience.

But do these apps truly deliver on their promises? Let’s explore their effectiveness.

Quality Over Quantity

Not all educational apps are created equal. While some apps offer engaging and age-appropriate content that can reinforce learning, others may be flashy but lack educational value. It’s essential to choose apps that are designed by educators and aligned with early learning standards.

I watched a Parliamentary debate about technology in the early years with Baroness Kidron, OBE as she is an advocate for children’s rights in the digital world. She has played a determinative role in establishing standards for online safety and privacy across the world  and in 2004 she directed the second installment of the Bridget Jones series, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant!

She suggested whilst there are many educational apps designed for toddlers that claim to promote learning and development, not all of them live up to these promises. Several studies and experts have raised concerns about the effectiveness and potential drawbacks of toddler learning apps.

Many toddler learning apps are designed to be passive, where children watch videos or play games without actively engaging with the content. Research suggests that passive screen time does not offer the same cognitive and developmental benefits as active, hands-on learning experiences.

The fast-paced visuals and sounds in many toddler apps can lead to overstimulation, making it difficult for young children to focus and concentrate. This constant stimulation can also interfere with their ability to engage in imaginative play and develop essential self-regulation skills.


While there are some high-quality educational apps available for toddlers that can complement traditional learning activities, it’s essential for you to be discerning and critical consumers. Not all toddler learning apps are created equal, and some may even have potential drawbacks that can hinder rather than enhance your child’s development.

Some of the best apps for toddlers keep in mind how they learn and focus on exploration and open-ended play. If you’ve decided to make digital media a part of your toddlers’ lives, you can extend their learning by helping them relate what they experience in an app to real life. Choosing high-quality programmes and playing along with your child are key components of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated guidelines on screen use for young children.

Not sure how much screen time is OK for your little one? Check out the Common Sense Media website Early Childhood and Screen Time topic centres for research-grounded guidance and answers to critical early childhood issues.

Passive vs. Active Learning

Many educational apps for toddlers are designed to be interactive, encouraging children to engage actively with the content. However, passive screen time, where children merely watch videos or play games without active participation, doesn’t offer the same cognitive benefits as hands-on learning experiences.

Supplement, Not Substitute

Educational apps can be a valuable supplement or addition to traditional learning activities, such as reading books, playing with toys, and exploring the outdoors with your children but they shouldn’t replace these essential experiences but rather complement them in a balanced learning environment.

Parental Involvement

The effectiveness of educational apps largely depends on how you as parents interact with your children while using them. Engaging in conversations, asking open-ended questions, and providing encouragement can really enhance the learning experience and help your children make meaningful connections with the content.

While smartphones and educational apps can offer benefits when used appropriately, they are not a substitute for hands-on learning experiences and real-world interactions for toddlers. It’s crucial for you to set healthy screen time limits, choose high-quality educational apps, and actively engage with your children to promote holistic development.

By prioritising meaningful interactions, outdoor play, and diverse learning experiences, you can foster  and encourage well-rounded development for your toddlers, setting the foundation for lifelong learning and success but just be mindful of just handing over your smartphone to do all the work!

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