Children from deprived backgrounds most likely to use learning apps, research finds

Families living in deprived areas are more likely to use learning and development apps with their child than those living in affluent areas, according to a new study.

More children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds use apps than white children. Picture: Adobe Stock
More children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds use apps than white children. Picture: Adobe Stock

The Department for Education’s follow-up to its childcare and early years survey of parents 2018, shows that overall 61 per cent of 0- to five-year-olds used a learning and development app once a week. 

Some 18 per cent of children used an app once a day, the survey of more than 5,000 parents shows.

The use of learning and development apps daily was more frequent among children living in the most deprived areas in England with 29 per cent of children living in the most deprived quintile doing so compared with just eight per cent in the least deprived quintile.

Some 38 per cent of children from non-working families used apps daily compared with 14 per cent of children living in partially working families, and 15 per cent of children living in working families.

Children from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds are more likely to use apps daily than children from white backgrounds, the report shows, with 31 per cent of BME children doing so compared with 16 per cent of white children.

Three-quarters (75 per cent) of children aged 0 to two used the apps with an adult compared with around half (52 per cent) of children aged three to four, and around two in five (41 per cent) children aged five.

Most parents (77 per cent) whose child had used a learning or development app in the last six months had only used free-to-download apps, one in five (19 per cent) had paid to download an app, and 10 per cent had made an in-app purchase.

Parents in higher-income households were more likely to have made a payment on a learning and development app, either by paying to download an app or making an in-app purchase, with 29 per cent of those earning £45,000 or more having done so compared with 14 per cent of parents earning below £20,000.

The statistics come following the release of a separate DfE report that suggests “the most disadvantaged families are more likely to have access to poorer quality childminder care”.

Last week, education secretary Gavin Williamson launched six new learning and development apps via the DfE’s Hungry Little Minds programme.

A panel of early years experts approved six apps focused on literacy, language and communication following a competition entered by parents and professionals, the government said.

The apps will be available on the Hungry Little Minds website and include:

  • Lingumi (for children aged two-five): Sets of learning games, speech recognition games and video-based games to help with a child’s grammar and getting them speaking their first words early on.
  • Kaligo (for children aged three-five): The first digital handwriting exercise book using a stylus and tablet, built using AI and co-created with teachers, occupational therapists and neuroscientists.
  • Phonics Hero (for school-aged children): Over 850 games take a child step-by-step through the 44 sounds, the reading and spelling of words, and how to build sentences.
  • Teach Your Monster to Read (for school-aged children): Covers the first two years of learning to read, from matching letters and sounds to enjoying short books, designed in collaboration with leading academics.
  • Navigo Game (for school-aged children): Focuses on developing skills that underpin reading, including phonics, letters and sounds, designed by UCL Institute of Education and digital media company Fish in a Bottle.
  • Fonetti (for school-aged children): A "listening bookshop", interacting with children by giving visual cues in real-time as they read aloud and highlighting where the most support is needed.

They have been launched as part of a £3.6m government investment in early years education.

Williamson said: “We know that the majority of families are using technology in fun and visual ways to support their child’s early education, but it can be difficult for busy parents to work out what content is best.

“This list of expert-approved apps helps them make confident decisions that benefit their child’s language and literacy skills.”

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