Volume index - Journal index - Article index - Map ---- Back

Comunicar Journal 61: Digital Competence for Teachers. Perspectives and foresights for a new school (Vol. 27 - 2019)

Safe and inclusive educational apps: Digital protection from an ethical and critical perspective


Lucrezia Crescenzi-Lanna

Riccardo Valente

Rafael Suárez-Gómez


The mediated use of technology fosters learning from early childhood and is a potential resource for inclusive education. Nevertheless, the huge range of options and exposure to interactive digital content, which is often online, also implies a series of risks. The definition of protection underlying the current strategies to protect children is inadequate as it only extends to reducing children's exposure to harmful content. This study proposes the expansion of this definition. Through systematic observation of 200 apps within the Catalan sphere for children under 8 years of age and principal component analysis, the results support a multidimensional conceptualisation of protection which, instead of being restricted to the potential risks, also considers aspects related to the educational and inclusive potential of digital resources. Five factors are suggested in order to select these resources and contribute to the digital competence of teachers and students. The first factor concerns the use of protection mechanisms and the existence of external interference, the second factor indicates the presence of adaptation tools; the exposure to stereotypes corresponds to the third factor and the last two consider the previous knowledge required and the verbal component of the apps. Finally, the scope of the suggested definition and its limitations as a guide for future analysis will be discussed.


Children, educational technology, apps, safety, inclusive education, content analysis, protection of minors, cybersafety, digital competence

PDF file in Spanish

PDF file in English


Asociación Española de Videojuegos (Ed.) (2013). Anuario de la industria del videojuego. Madrid: AEVI http://bit.ly/2Q2vKUE

Assembly of the United Nations (Ed.) (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. http://bit.ly/2Yor3Yr

Assembly of the United Nations (Ed.) (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [A/RES/61/106]. http://bit.ly/2W85M85

Bagozzi, R.P., & Yi, Y. (1988). On the evaluation of structural equation models. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 16(1), 74-94. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02723327

BinDhim, N., & Trevena, L. (2015). Health-related smartphone apps: Regulations, safety, privacy and quality. BMJ Innovations, 1(2), 43-45. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjinnov-2014-000019

Bruckman, A., & Bandlow, A. (2002). Human-computer interaction for kids. In A. Bruckman, A. Bandlow, & A. Forte (Eds.), The human-computer interaction handbook (pp. 428-440). New Jersey, USA: L. Erlbaum Associates Inc. https://doi.org/10.1201/b11963-42

Creswell, J.W. (2008). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage Publications: Los Angeles. http://bit.ly/2WJTFuM

Cusack, S. (2013). Gender stereotyping as a Human Rights violation: Research report. Prepared for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. http://bit.ly/2Hh4nnm

De-Haan, J., Van-der-Hof, S., Bekkers, W., & Pijpers, R. (2013). Self-regulation. In Towards a better Internet for Children (pp. 111-129). http://bit.ly/2JfzRwp

Desarrollo Español de Videojuegos (Ed.) (2016). Llibre blanc de la indústria catalana del videojoc 2016. http://bit.ly/30pMfzc

European Commission (Ed.) (2006). Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 (2006/952/EC) on the protection of minors and human dignity and on the right of reply in relation to the competitiveness of the European audiovisual and on-line information services industry. http://bit.ly/2W0Jx3B

European Commission (Ed.) (2012). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: European Strategy for a better Internet for Children. COM(2012), 196-final. http://bit.ly/2JgVOej

European Commission (Ed.) (2015). Survey and Data Gathering to support the impact assessment of a possible new legislative proposal concerning Directive 2010/13/EU (AVMSD) and in particular the provisions on the protection of minors, Final Report 2015/0050. http://bit.ly/2VYy84p

Felini, D. (2015). Beyond today’s video game rating systems: A critical approach to PEGI and ESRB, and proposed improvements. Games and Culture, 10(1), 106-122. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412014560192

Flewitt, R., Messer, D., & Kucirkova, N. (2015). New directions for early literacy in a digital age: The iPad. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 15(3), 289-310. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798414533560

Fornell, C., & Larcker, D.F. (1981). Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 18(1), 39-50. https://doi.org/10.2307/3151312

Gay, V., & Leijdekkers, P. (2014). Design of emotion-aware mobile apps for autistic children. Health and Technology, 4(1), 21-26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12553-013-0066-3

Herodotou, C. (2017). Young children and tablets: A systematic review of effects on learning and development. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 34(1), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12220

Holt, R.J., Moore, A.M., & Beckett, A.E. (2014). Together through play: Facilitating inclusive play through participatory design. In Inclusive designing: Joining usability, accessibility, and inclusion (pp. 245-255). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05095-9_22

Hourcade, J.P., Williams, S.R., Miller, E.A., Huebner, K.E., & Liang, L.J. (2013). Evaluation of tablet apps to encourage social interaction in children with autism spectrum disorders. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3197-3206). ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/2470654.2466438

Howard, S. K., Yang, J., Ma, J., Maton, K., & Rennie, E. (2018). App clusters: Exploring patterns of multiple app use in primary learning contexts. Computers & Education, 127, 154-164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.08.021

Kaiser, H.F., & Rice, J. (1974). Little jiffy, mark IV. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 34(1), 111-117. https://doi.org/10.1177/001316447403400115

Kirkorian, H.L., & Pempek, T.A. (2013). Toddlers and touch screens: Potential for early learning? Zero to Three, 33(4), 32-37. http://bit.ly/30fUJbQ

Landis, J.R., & Koch, G.G. (1997). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1), 159-174. https://doi.org/10.2307/2529310

Lievens, E. (2015). Children, protection of. In Robin Mansell & Peng Hwa Ang (Eds), The International Encyclopedia of Digital Communication and Society (pp. 1-5). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118767771.wbiedcs018

Livingstone, S. (Coord.) (2014). EU Kids Online. Final report to the EC Safer Internet Programme from the EU Kids Online network 2011-2014. Contract number: SIP-2010-TN-4201001. http://bit.ly/2JCjJo4

Livingstone, S., Mascheroni, G., & Staksrud, E. (2015). Developing a framework for researching children’s online risks and opportunities in Europe. http://bit.ly/30ghWuG

Nielsen Group (Ed.) (2012). American families see tablets as playmate, teacher, and babysitter. http://bit.ly/2YjoZku

Odom, S.L., & Diamond, K.E. (1998). Inclusion of young children with special needs in early childhood education: The research base. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 13(1), 3-25. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0885-2006(99)80023-4

OFCom. Office of Communications (Ed.) (2017). Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report publication. http://bit.ly/2WOHkoY

Pan European Game Information (Ed.) (2013). PEGI Annual Report. http://bit.ly/2VkNJqz

Porter J. (2018). Entering Aladdin's cave: Developing an app for children with Down syndrome. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 34(4), 429-439. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12246

Redecker, C. (2017). European framework for the digital competence of educators. DigCompEdu. JCR Science for Policy Report. http://bit.ly/2JhGb6l

Rideout, V. (2017). The common sense census: Media use by kids age zero to eight 2017. http://bit.ly/2W13F5N

Shuler, C. (2009). iLearn; A content analysis of the iTunes App Store Education Section. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, vol. 2009. http://bit.ly/2HhfAUM

Sobel, K., O'Leary, K., & Kientz, J.A. (2015). Maximizing children's opportunities with inclusive play: Considerations for interactive technology design. In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 39-48). ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/2771839.2771844

Soler, I.R., López-Sánchez, C., & Lacave, T.T. (2018). Percepción de riesgo online en jóvenes y su efecto en el comportamiento digital. [Online risk perception in young people and its effects on digital behaviour]. Comunicar, 56, 71-79. https://doi.org/10.3916/C56-2018-07

Suárez-Guerrero, C., Lloret-Catalá, C., & Mengual-Andrés, S. (2016). Percepción docente sobre la transformación digital del aula a través de tabletas: un estudio en el contexto español. [Teachers' perceptions of the digital transformation of the classroom through the use of tablets: A study in Spain]. Comunicar, 49, 81-89. https://doi.org/10.3916/c49-2016-08

Troseth, G.L., Russo, C.E., & Strouse, G.A. (2016). What’s next for research on young children’s interactive media? Journal of Children and Media, 10(1), 54-62. https://doi.org/10.1080/17482798.2015.1123166

Yussof, R.L., Anuuar, W.S.W.M., Rias, R.M., Abas, H., & Ariffin, A. (2016). An approach in teaching reading for down syndrome children. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 6(11), 909. https://doi.org/10.7763/IJIET.2016.V6.815