This paper develops an approach to thinking about young children, digital technologies and learning, drawing on research literature that relates children’s learning to the use of books, and on literature that discusses the nature of interaction between adults and children and its relationship to children’s learning. An analysis is given of parents and children using devices marketed as supporting young children’s learning, identifying, within the interactions that take place, the adult’s conception of appropriate use, and showing how this influences the nature of adult–child interaction. The findings are then related to literature on social interaction and learning, and discussed in relation to the assumptions that underpin the design of the devices used. The paper suggests that the artefact can influence adult– child interaction via a conception of appropriate use, which relates to traditions or practices with which the adult is familiar but also to the design features of the artefact. It suggests that it may be time to rethink the design of technologies to support young children’s learning. 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.