What role do apps play in families around the world? What do kids and parents look for in an app, which are most popular, and what features tend to encourage usage? Nickelodeon International answered these questions in a September 2013 research study, “Role of Apps.” This analysis was based on an online survey of parents with children ages 4 to 12 in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Mexico.

Here are key findings:

Nearly 9 out of 10 children use apps. Kids with younger parents are significantly more likely to be app users.

  • 92% of children with parents ages 25 to 34 are app users, compared with 87% of kids overall
  • Nearly 7 in 10 kids who use apps access them on a parent’s phone/tablet
  • Over 4 in 10 children use apps on their own devices
  • The average child has 7 apps – and families have an average of 4 apps that they use together
  • Kids use apps the most on weekday evenings and during the day on weekends

More than 8 in 10 Millennial parents use apps with their children as a family activity. For many parents, apps create a platform that helps them interact with their kids.

  • Apps play a positive role in Millennial parents’ lives – within their families, they mostly use them for the educational elements and to make life easier
  • Nearly 6 in 10 parents say they use apps because they’re a great way to spend time together; they also appreciate that they’re easy to use
  • Their top reasons for using apps as a family activity are ease of use, because they’re a great way to spend family time together, and because they’re an easy way to educate their children

For parents, the key perceived benefit of apps is their educational properties. They want to make sure kids don’t just play games, but learn in a fun and entertaining way.

  • Having a bigger choice of apps that are educational and suitable for use as a family are the two main qualities that parents say would encourage app usage
  • Parents say games (75%) and general entertainment (70%) are the main reasons kids use apps – however, 49% consider apps to be good learning tools

Just under half of parents pay for apps and get them as gifts and for the whole family to enjoy.

  • 48% of parents pay for some apps, while 46% never spend money on them
  • The most common reasons for buying apps is for the whole family’s enjoyment (73%) and as a gift for the child (56%)

The top reason parents don’t allow their children to use apps is because they feel they’re too young.

  • 26% of parents don’t let their children use apps because they’re too small – a sentiment that is more common among parents of 4- to-6-year-olds (32%)
  • Many believe apps replace personal interaction, or that they’re addictive
  • Some see apps as not educational enough

There is a demand for a wider range of educational apps that children can use on their own, that support ‘family time,’ and that give ideas on how parents can engage with children.

  • The key attribute of an ideal app is its educational properties; it also needs to be safe, easy to use, and entertaining for the child
  • The ideal app benefits not only children, but parents as well