Study: Preschoolers Have Access to Apps with Adult Themes

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. lethal / ˈli θəl / (adj) – causing death

    Small toys can be lethal for young children because they like to put things in their mouths.

  2. key / ki / (adj) – very important

    Written tests are one of the key measures of student performance used by schools.

  3. assume / əˈsum / (v) – to believe something without any assurance that it is true

    I met her at my school, so I assumed that she’s also a student there.

  4. obtain / əbˈteɪn / (v) – to get or acquire something

    He obtained a permit from the education department to operate a language school.

  5. lay down (something) / leɪ daʊn / (phrasal) – to present rules, guidelines, etc. in a clear way

    The management will lay down guidelines for using vacation and sick leave.


Read the text below.

A new study revealed that children as young as three are using apps meant for adults, such as those featuring violence and horror.

Researchers from various US universities and health organizations studied what types of apps are usually used by preschool-age children. They found 85 apps with inappropriate themes on the devices used by the children they observed. Among these apps are video games where players use lethal weapons to kill enemies and fight zombies.

Another key finding from the study is that children spend an unhealthy amount of time on YouTube. The researchers found that the streaming platform is among the children’s most used apps, and some of them even stay up until 3 or 4 a.m. just watching videos.

To gather data, the researchers recorded the device usage of 350 children for nine months between 2018 and 2019. For Android users, they used an app that collects user data every 15 minutes. For iOS users, they required parents to take a screenshot of the device’s battery page at the end of each day.

The researchers did not interview the parents of the participants. However, they assumed that the children did not have to obtain any parental consent to download the apps, since such apps can easily be downloaded by anyone.

In line with the findings, the researchers advised parents to frequently check their children’s devices and to uninstall inappropriate apps. They added that parents should lay down rules for their children’s screen time and promote social interaction and activities within the family.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think all the apps mentioned in the study (i.e., violent games, video-streaming sites) should be totally restricted from children? Why or why not?
• In your opinion, how much should parents be involved in their children’s use of devices? Discuss.

Discussion B

• What kinds of apps should be created for very young children (e.g. story-telling apps, learning apps)? Discuss.
• What do you think app developers can do to make sure that children will not be able to access inappropriate content? Discuss.