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17 May 2018

What Creative Apps Can(not) Do For Children

Keywords: games, learning, media, Western Europe, computer, education, entertainment-education, gaming, interactive media, intervention, kids, mobile, mobile phone, survey, tablet, technology,

Children are more engaged when playing creative apps that fit their developmental stage than when playing apps that are inferior to their capabilities, a study in Computers in Human Behavior shows. As a result, they like developmentally-appropriate creative apps better. Interestingly, playing creative apps doesn’t make children more creative.

Take aways

  • Children like playing apps that fit their developmental stage more than playing apps that are developed for younger children (and thus are too easy).
  • Playing a creative app for 10 minutes does not make children more creative. 
  • App developers should tailor apps to the developmental stage of their young target audience.

Study information

  • The question?

    Can developmentally-appropriate apps support creativity in middle childhood?

  • Who?

    94 children between 8 and 10 years (mean age: 9 years; 60% girls), recruited at an annual children’s film festival in the Netherlands

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    The children played one out of 47 creative apps that either fit their developmental stage (appropriate for children between 8 and 10 years) or were inferior to their capabilities (apps that are appropriate for children between 2 to 4 years). The selection of these apps was based on the most popular app recommendation tools for parents, Cinekid AppLab app and Common Sense Media. Once they were done playing the app for a maximum of 10 minutes, children filled out a questionnaire to assess their engagement ("During the games, I forgot the time”) and liking of the app, and they completed a creativity task (Circle Task).

Facts and findings

  • Children liked playing creative apps that are developmentally appropriate more than playing apps that were inferior to their capabilities.
  • The reason for this was that children were more engaged when playing developmentally-appropriate apps.
  • Against expectations, playing the creative apps did not make children more creative.
  • Critical Note: Conclusions should be drawn with caution, as the number of participants was relatively small, meaning that the sample may not be representative for the larger population of children between 8 and 10 years.