Huge Growth in Kids’ Device Use


I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about kids and devices.  It’s mostly as market research for my new business (more about that later) and, luckily for me, it’s also really interesting. I knew that devices were big with kids, but honestly, I didn’t know just HOW big.  So I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve been learning, in case, like me, you haven’t been keeping up-to-date on the trends…

One of the things that surprised me is that the rate of iOS and Android device adoption has surpassed that of any consumer technology in history.  Compared to recent technologies, smart device adoption is being adopted 10X faster than PCs were in the 80s, 2X faster than the internet in the 90s and 3X faster than recent social network adoption.  That last bit in particular blew my mind because remember how Facebook just seemed to explode? And to think that the adoption of mobile devices is three times that??  Wow.

Now, of course, that’s mobile devices in general, not specifically with kids.  Well, it gets even better.  It turns out that in October, 2011, 52% of kids ages 0-8 yrs had access to mobile devices at home.  And that was over a year ago.  Imagine what it is by now, especially given what was topping kids’ holiday gift lists this year: you guessed it, devices.    In fact, the iPad was the number one request for kids aged 6-12 yrs (48%) and consumers aged 13+ years (21%) according to Nielsen.  And looking at the wish list of kids aged 6-12, in particular, here is what Nielsen reports:

holiday devices kids 6-12

Nielsen (2012)

You probably noticed that four of the top five requests are mobile devices.  And the interest in the iPad, for this age group, is up from 44% in 2011.  It will be interesting to see how many of these kids actually received devices as holiday gifts this year, but what we do know is that research firm NPD’s latest report (1/3/2013) estimates that there are currently more than 31.8M tablet devices in US homes.  Considering the 2011 Census reported approximately 114M US households, that’s a pretty healthy penetration.

You’re probably convinced, just from your own experience, that device use by kids is growing like crazy.  But if you’re not, maybe some of these data about educational app downloads will seal the deal.  Strategy Analytics reported that in 2011 there were 270M educational app downloads, up from 25M in 2009.  That is a more than tenfold increase in those two years.  Again, we don’t yet have the data for 2012, but I feel pretty comfortable extrapolating that the number of educational app downloads was, ya know, high.

And even though I don’t yet have the data to support that opinion, it seems clear that app developers must agree that the opportunity in educational apps is huge.  Because when I checked the recent app store numbers two days ago I found that there are now more than 115,000 educational apps, between the iTunes and Google Play app stores.   I was stunned.  When I looked at the stores in the late spring of 2012, the number loomed somewhere near 50,000.  And I’m not even looking at Kindle, Nook or Microsoft app stores at this point.  (I’m a little bit afraid!)

I mentioned earlier in this post that I’ve been doing a lot of this reading as market research for my new business, Balefire Labs.  With more than 115,000 educational apps out there I can’t even imagine how parents and teachers are going to make sense of it all and find what they need for their kids.  We have our work cut out for us at Balefire!

What is your experience?  Did your kids ask for and/or get mobile devices this past holiday season?  And how’s the hunt for educational apps going?

If you’re interested in being notified when Balefire Labs launches this spring, please sign up on our website.

About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
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3 Responses to Huge Growth in Kids’ Device Use

  1. Alyssa says:

    My nearly 6 year old got a kindle for Christmas. I haven’t looked for educational apps yet because currently he only receives 30 minutes of angry birds and some other skiing game on the kindle a day and that is only if he does Headsprout and reads a book. Once HS Early Reading is done (or whatever they have renamed it) I doubt he will be ready for HS Reading Comprehension and at that point I will need to find educational apps. Otherwise his access on the kindle is only to books. Once I start looking, I will let you know.

    • karen mahon says:

      Great, report back! I’ve heard that the Kindle store is good for books, but that they’re still behind the curve in apps. (That wouldn’t be surprising, given the head start that iTunes and Google Play had.) Let us know!

  2. Pingback: Video Killed the Radio Star…or Did It? | disrupt learning!

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