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Selecting educational apps for preschool children: How useful are website app rating systems?

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>British Journal of Educational Technology
Issue number5
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)1262-1282
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date17/02/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In the present paper, we assess whether website rating systems are useful for selecting educational apps for preschool age children. We selected the 10 highest scoring and 10 lowest scoring apps for 2–4‐year‐olds from two widely used websites (Good App Guide; Common Sense Media). Apps rated highly by the two websites had a higher educational potential as assessed by a validated questionnaire for evaluating the educational potential of apps and were more likely to include a learning goal and feedback compared to low scoring apps. However, high scoring apps scored on average just 9/20 for indicators of educational potential, and both high and low scoring apps had poor language quality as determined by psycholinguistic and construction type analyses. We argue that website rating systems should also include quality of feedback, adjustable content, social interactions, storyline and a more fine‐grained analysis of language in their assessments. Practitioner notes: What is already known about this topic Appropriately designed apps for preschool age children have the potential to teach early school readiness skills. Selecting high quality educational apps for preschool age children is challenging. The children's app marketplace is currently unregulated. What this paper adds We assess whether two leading app rating websites are useful for selecting educational apps for preschool age children. Children's apps rated highly by two app website rating systems had a higher educational potential than low rated apps as measured by a research informed app evaluation tool. In‐depth analysis of the language in apps shows that highly rated children's apps on app rating websites may not enrich a child's early language environment. Implications for practice and/or policy Children's app rating website assessments should include potential for feedback, language, adjustable content, storyline and social interactions. Policy should be implemented for app ratings in the app stores or on website app rating systems.