At a time when TikTok and YouTube reign supreme (for now anyway), content on mobile devices is having a profound effect on kids 6 to 12 years old. The content they view influences how youngsters think and feel about themselves and their world. illustration of a kid using a mobile device and app for healthcare purposes

Parents recognize the need for “safe spaces” when allowing screen time for their kids. And many parents use apps to limit their kids’ direct contact with the internet at large. The numbers make it clear that apps engage young people more than ever: 53% of kids aged 3 to 4 use tablets and smartphones to go online. Seventy-nine percent of 5- to 7-year-olds use mobile devices.

According to research by Common Sense Media, the pandemic has also played a major role in kids’ mobile device use. During the lengthy lockdowns, almost four in five 8- to 18-year-olds used digital tools to keep learning and creating, even when they weren’t in school. In addition, a robust 78% went online to learn how to do something that interested them and then shared their creations and discoveries with friends.

The desire to learn something interesting shows promise for content creators who want to share helpful healthcare messages in an app.

Writing for kids’ mobile devices and apps can inform and shape lives 

E.B. White, author of “Charlotte’s Web,” one of the most enduring children’s books of all time, once said,

“[Writers have] the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. [They] should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life; they inform and shape life.”

White couldn’t have foreseen that those words would ring as true for today’s app writer as they did when he first said them in 1969. The vehicles for communication may have changed, but where it matters most, kids have not.

Kids still want to be entertained by what they’re reading, and if they learn something too, all the better. Now, when technology plays an even larger role, what they read must compete for their attention from TV, interactive games and even videos. So creating entertaining and informative content is a chance for you to help shape their lives in healthy, positive ways.

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Tips to help guide your mobile and app content

When creating content for kids, consider your audience. For instance, would the content work best in a gaming format or a story or article format? Also consider how kids might interpret the messages they’re reading. These tips can help as your content goes mobile.

Watch out for disturbing or confusing content

Healthcare content can be overwhelming and scary for even the most sophisticated audiences. So, as you write, think about what content kids might find disturbing or confusing. And avoid it. Consider whether pairing the content with images makes it better or worse. Even in a game format, the wrong combination of pictures and unclear healthcare vocabulary may seem scary to a young person.

Be aware of stereotypes

Many times, stereotypes aren’t intentional. Still, even the most subtle generalizations can have a powerful — and harmful — impact. As you create an app story, think about what the characters say and what you’re saying about them through descriptions and actions. Use a critical eye toward the message you’re presenting and remember diversity and inclusion matter. For example, limited perspectives on cultural references may affect a child’s sense of self-worth or view of the world.

Keep content age-appropriate

Certainly, kids don’t all develop at the same pace, even when they’re the same age. But these guidelines may help as you craft your message.

  • 5-year-olds and under

Family is the heart of their social life and the center of their world. They’re starting to communicate, and managing their emotions is not easy. They’ll enjoy learning from content that lets them be silly even as they’re absorbing useful information. Humor will go a long way when communicating with these kids.

  • 6- to 8-year-olds

School and friends are becoming more significant at this age. These kids may be trying out their personalities and comparing themselves to others. Funny characters, exaggeration, physical comedy and even slight gross jokes are their jam. At this point, you can mix simple medical vocabulary with slightly more complex language.

  • 9- to 12-year-olds

Building friendships and socializing begin to overtake time with family for these kids. They enjoy humor that’s a bit more complex, including sarcasm, puns and riddles. You can use more complex medical vocabulary (if defined) and more sophisticated humor.

Here’s writing for you, kids: a final checklist

  • Plain language makes sense for any audience, but it’s essential when writing for kids. You’ll want to explain new words. Break up big chunks of text. Use bullets. Work with the design team to present text in different colors and fonts and use meaningful pictures.
  • Bring attention to facts by making the text bold or putting information in boxes.
  • Recap your main points and reinforce learning with multiple-choice questions and quizzes.
  • Create immersive scenarios kids will enjoy exploring.
  • Strike a balance between plain, jargon-free language and not being too simple.
  • Take a cue from video games. In controlled settings like apps, kids enjoy overcoming struggles and reaching new levels. And when they do, be sure to reward them with badges, recognition and new challenges.
  • Your app is for the kids, but it’s for the parents, too. After all, they’ll most likely be the ones to decide to purchase or install the app.

Write mobile content for your inner child

Children’s book writer CJ Heck offered meaningful but straightforward advice about writing for kids when she said, “When writing for children, it’s important to keep in touch with our inner child. What frightened them, made them happy, made them sad or angry?”

When writing for kids’ mobile devices and apps, putting yourself in the sneakers of your audience helps you create content that entertains, teaches and makes kids happy to learn about health.

Partner with healthcare writers who understand how to write content for children. WriterGirl’s team of healthcare writers creates custom content that resonates with your specific audience. Reach out anytime to learn more.