A Review of Mindfulness-Based Apps for Children

Abstract

Objectives

The use of mobile applications (apps) for the practice of mindfulness is becoming more and more popular. However, little is known about the mindfulness-based apps that are available for children. The present study aimed to overcome this gap. We identified and characterized mindfulness apps for children and provided an expert-based evaluation on apps engagement, functionality, aesthetics, information, and overall quality with the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS).

Methods

Using the search term “mindfulness,” a human and a machine rater identified all apps in the Google Play and Apple Store. Three selection criteria were applied: the apps should be in English, related to mindfulness, and suitable for children (as defined in the store’s descriptive text). An expert multidisciplinary team of six trained judges used the MARS to evaluate the selected apps, whose main features were also extracted.

Results

Among the 1933 identified apps, 57 met selection criteria. The 36 free apps achieved an average score of 3.41 (out of 5) in MARS overall quality, with Mindfulness with Petit BamBou achieving the highest score (4.33). Most apps included audio-based meditation exercises, some of them combined with videos. Exercises were typically presented as isolated practices rather embedded in sequenced programs.

Conclusions

Despite the general “acceptable” level of quality, most apps failed to achieve a score of good (≥ 4.0) in all MARS dimensions. Overall, it seems that there is room for improvement in what concerns the mindfulness-based apps freely available for children. Moreover, empirical evidence on their effectiveness is clearly warranted.

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Acknowledgments

We are thankful to the team members and collaborators of the M2S Project, who contributed to this study.

Funding

This work was supported by the M2S Project funded through the Operational Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalization, supported by FEDER and national funds allocated to the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT; NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-028404). During the study, the first author was supported by an FCT Grant (SFRH/BD/139195/2018).

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AN and TL designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the manuscript. SLC collaborated with the design of the study and assisted with writing and editing of the final manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

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Correspondence to Teresa Limpo.

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Nunes, A., Castro, S.L. & Limpo, T. A Review of Mindfulness-Based Apps for Children. Mindfulness 11, 2089–2101 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01410-w

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness-based mobile apps
  • Mobile health (mHealth)
  • Children
  • Mobile App Rating Scale