We: Parents, Educators, Developers, Investors, Researchers, and Marketers of Children’s Apps…

  • Embrace and celebrate mobile devices as powerful new platforms not just for games, but for digital toys and tools that encourage kids to play, learn, laugh, create, grow, and explore - both indoors AND outdoors, in school AND at home, independently AND collaboratively with friends, educators and family. Digital play spaces should inspire and enable children to do what they do best: be children… with touchscreens at their fingertips and mud between their toes.
  • Commit to supporting diversity and excellence in Children’s Media:
    • Content should be valued for quality of engagement, enjoyment, and learning.
    • Exceptional content should be supported through revenue models that expand the play experience, provide great value to parents and educators, and fund future development.
    • Apps should be priced accessibly for parents to evaluate and determine which products are most worthwhile for their children.
  • Respect the sanctity of childhood and play:
    • Play should not be over-commercialized by consumable goods nor advertisement.
    • Apps should not disguise costs nor manipulate children’s emotions to entice spending.
    • Developers should listen to childrens’ and parents’ needs and continue to support, update, fix, and improve apps over the lifetime of a product.

I support the Children’s App Manifesto







19 thoughts on “We: Parents, Educators, Developers, Investors, Researchers, and Marketers of Children’s Apps…

  1. Hello,

    Very interesting conversation. I know you’ve been talking more about purely educational apps, but i think there are other interesting apps : apps that aim at just providing good stories to children. They can be enhanced of course and they can be an opportunity to teach a few stuff to kids as it is in real books (learn colors, sounds, etc…)

    My point here is i think there’s a new business model when it comes to paying the authors of these stories. I live in France hence our model is very particular and very protective of the author rights. I jus wonder how do you manage this in your own countries ? We know an app is sold a few euros/dollars, and i’m wondering if there’s a model for “premium” apps as to make sure to pay the authors what they deserve and still be able to be attractive to the consumer and make a profit as a company.

    At applikids, we test apps for kids and we give our opinions on our website. The apps are tested by parents and they write about their experience with the app.

    Cheers,

    Julien

  2. Thank you for taking this bold step and getting a great conversation started. Mind Leap is an app store, curated by educators, that reviews apps based on their educational value. We review hundreds of apps and only the select the very best educational apps for our site. Through our research we have found that providing Content Expansion is a great way to go for parents who want to test drive an app before purchasing the full scale version. Providing Lite free versions is also very helpful. Ultimately, parents don’t want hundreds of mediocre apps on their iPad or iPhone, they would rather have fewer high quality apps that they know their child will enjoy and that will enrich their child’s learning experiences.

  3. Great idea, glad to see these principles so clearly articulated. May I respectfully suggest 2 additions to the list of interested parties (ie. Parents, Educators, etc.):
    Authors
    Illustrators

    Thanks!

  4. Thanks so much for putting this together. I imagine i am in the same boat as many developers: my app is a project along side paying client work, so i cant focus as much as i would like. But i am working towards providing a free version with in-app purchase to get more pages of content, in a way that does not hinder the child’s experience nor constantly prompt them to buy all the time.

    It’s hard when you go free and get 14k downloads in a weekend, but less than 100 if you sell for even $0.99. Hopefully a different model for purchase will really help, as well as a different way of looking at the value of these apps.

  5. No app can replace mud between the toes. No touch screen can replace a parent’s hand on a child’s shoulder. There is room enough in a child’s life — and imagination — to enjoy and learn from the physical world and the digital. I look forward to the evolution of apps and all digital media to enable and inspire new connections — both within us and between us.

    • Thanks Dan.
      The need to use emerging technology to polarise is troubling, isn’t it? Who said technology needed to replace or become the sole place where children learn. As others have commented on in regards to supporting teachers, we need to support those who raise and teach children how to best use technology in ways that encourage their imagination and creativity and play, and to not neglect all tyne other aspects of the world in which they live. I also am amazed and fascinated by the evolution. This manifesto is really asking all of its to take some responsibility and control over that evolution…

  6. I am pleased to see app developers offering “lite” versions. Schools need to be able to experiment with an app before committing to a high ticket app. A lite version may give educators an opportunity to explore the possibilities an app can offer and the depth in which it can be used.

    I also see in-app purchases as another way to provide educators exploration time. Our schools need to thoughtful about every penny they spend. Our students rarely, in ever, nag us to buy more “stuff”. Possibly they are also aware of our limited finances and know better not to ask?

    iPad integration in our schools is in it’s infancy. My desire is to see apps used for inquiry-based learning and opportunities to create content. More dialogues and collaboration between educators and app developers is needed. We have to be careful not to replicate our school’s current multiple choice mentality. Educational App developers have the unique opportunity to create products that promote critical and creative thought. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/497

    • Valuable point about the need to test and explore from an educational perspective, thanks Diane. Good perspective on how the “build upon an app” model could work in schools. I see the potential here also to have apps that meet the different learning needs of students as they improve - another reason why having education or pedagogy experts on educational app development teams is increasingly important.

    • Diane,
      if you are working in a school and may buy tens or hundreds of the same apps, don’t hesitate to contact developers directly (you can do it from the app store) because developers can offer promo-codes to evaluate an app.
      Pierre

  7. I’d love to see you explicitly reject in-app purchases for children’s apps. It’s hard for kids to engage creatively or imaginatively when they are being fed constant “buy, buy, buy” cues.

    • Hi Alexandra, thanks for your comment. We’re actually big fans of in-app purchasing *as long as it’s done correctly*. You’re right, there’s nothing worse than constantly pestering kids to purchase consumables (i.e. coins, bananas, etc.) - particularly when it interrupts the creation/game experience. If, however, developers create a separate channel for parents to purchase content expansion packs for their kids, then we believe IAP is a great way to keep initial costs down while enabling parents to fund future development. What do you think? Would this work for you?

      • Andy,
        As I already say to Daniel, thanks for this Manisfesto.
        As of in-app purchase, what is your experience with it ? I don’t see many educational apps with in-app purchases which are working (in the way that apps are profitable and allow future development). So I agree that it would be very nice for parents/educators as well as for developers but it seems that people are not buying a lot of IAP. When I think of it, I rather think to offer a free lite version to show how my app is great, but only so with few contents so that people that really want to use the app have to pay.

        • Hi Pierre, thanks for your note. We actually just released a “Toy Store” inside of Toontastic and it’s working out very well so far - parents can purchase new playsets for their kids to tell new stories (just like they might buy a new box of LEGOs). We release new characters and backgrounds every month. I think IAP often gets a bad name when developers charge for consumables (coins, bananas, etc.) that turn their games into pay-to-play Arcade Games, but charging for Expansion Packs (or character/backgrounds in our case) is actually a great way to extend the play experience for kids through one-time purchases.

          I haven’t seen too many other educational developers use the Expansion Pack model, but I’m hoping that will start to change through conversations like this. I’d love to hear what others think! Bueller? Anybody?

          • Expansion pack model seems great but all apps cannot use this model. I was thinking selling some “words pack” in my spelling apps but eventually I thought there was not enough content in a word pack to be sold as IAP. As parent and customer, IAP is OK for me but it should really contains great content - it is a little bit like if I buy another app.
            By the way, my kids and I love Toontastic, it is really a great and creative app (I need to check the “Toy Store” now!)

          • Hello Pierre, Andy etc. Love the spirit of all of this.

            Couple thoughts on IAP in particular. We sell expansion packs in Build A Train Lite, and our experience has been similar to Andy’s with expansion packs in Toontastic. We offer both a full version *without* in-app purchase, and a lite version that provides a free experience and allows for a la carte purchase of levels. It has worked well for us and parents seem happy.

            That said we do strongly agree that there’s a “right” way and a “wrong” way for developers to do IAP. We’ve learned the hard way that consumables aren’t a good fit for kids. And over-prompting is just a poor user experience. In parallel, I do also believe parents need to be responsible here too — it’s easy enough to shut off IAP for your whole device before you hand it to your kid, but this is not always well understood by new iOS users. Perhaps a continuation of the MWA awareness efforts on this front will help.

            Finally - Pierre - my son plays Montessori Crossword ALL THE TIME. He just loves it. I’d happily buy expansion packs from you just to say thanks for all the help with his learning. Sometimes I think of incremental IAP as a tip jar for a particularly nice app - perhaps others do too? So please do make a word pack.

            Cheers to all and thanks for this effort. Sorry to be late to the party..been busy coding..

    • Hey Alexandra -

      Understand your perspective, but I think if you read the Manifesto as a whole you’ll see where our perspective comes from and our ideas around in-app purchasing are not like those that some developers are engaged in. We are interested in how it can support parents to better assess and purchase in line with their child’s development, their own needs and financial situation. Apps that simply exploit children in that way do not meet the manifesto. If you are interested in the topic further you may want to check out my book “Adproofing Your Kids”, it explores the challenges and proposes ideas for how to manage raising children in an ad-excessive, technological world. Cheers.

    • I agree! My work with Project Synthesis is all about working with others to consider the importance of how we think about using this technology. Indeed, any app could potentially be educational and supporting children’s learning and development depending on how a teacher, facilitator or parents chose to use it with a child. However, there is still a need to find ways to support people who are producing high quality apps to accompany high quality teaching. Great tools certainly help on many levels. Thanks for engaging - and for doing great work out there.