Apps push parents’ buttons
Latest digital dilemma: deciding what’s appropriate
By Beth Teitell
Globe Staff / January 20, 2011
When Lisa Chinatti of Westford sits down to dinner with her daughters, she’s eager to hear about what happened at school that day. But her first-grader often prefers a different topic: which new apps her friends are playing with on their parents’ smartphones or iPads, and which ones she wants her own parents to buy for her.
“Mommy needs to learn about them first,’’ Chinatti responds.
But Mommy doesn’t always have time to immediately educate herself about every Hannah Montana or Star Wars app — she works, as a real estate agent, and there are dishes and laundry and snow pants to deal with — and that sometimes leaves Chinatti’s 7-year-old going to bed unhappy. “You promised we’d talk about it!’’ she wails as she’s being tucked in.
Not that they need one, but parents and children have a new battleground: the app.
With the number of children’s applications for mobile devices multiplying faster than Silly Bandz on a grade schooler’s wrist, parents are reporting bedtime app-related meltdowns, disagreements over what constitutes an appropriate game, and endless requests to borrow mom’s or dad’s phone or iPad.
And it’s only likely to get worse. There are already more than 300,000 apps, according to the International Data Corp., a Framingham-based research firm. The number of downloads is expected to hit 76.9 billion worldwide in 2014, up from 10.9 billion last year. The group predicts that worldwide revenues for mobile apps will exceed $35 billion in 2014.
Exact figures on apps for children are hard to come by, but specialists expect the children’s market to grow with the rest of the field — not only for Apple’s products but for Google’s Android devices as well.
There are educational apps that allow a child to learn basic facts about math or the solar system. There are game apps, such as the popular Angry Birds, which involves catapulting birds at fortresses made by evil pigs, and Cut the Rope, a puzzle game featuring a cute monster that wants candy. There are apps that teach children the alphabet or let them draw. There are apps that make bodily sounds.
And the apps never stop coming. Warren Buckleitner, editor of the Children’s Technology Review, recently counted almost 13,000 apps for children in Apple’s iTunes store. Buckleitner says he gets 10 new apps to review daily, compared with three a day a year ago. “In 2007 that number was zero,’’ he noted. “The App Store didn’t exist.’’
As apps proliferate, so do reviews — yet it can be overwhelming for parents to determine which are suitable for their children. Jamie Pearson, copublisher of bestkidsapps.com, equates trying to preview the new apps appearing daily with “drinking out of a fire hose.’’ She regularly hears from parents who are worried that their children know more about apps than they do.