A post about how apps might be good for kids, pediatricians coming around to mobile use, recently appeared in iMedicalApps, and we felt that this report was important enough that we wanted to share.
Teachers With Apps has discussed this topic in prior blogs, one being Digital Play – Potential and Possibilities for the Younger Set. Here we shared a memorable TEDx Talk with Carly Shuyler, she describes the nonsensical concept that all screens are bad for children and describes how she battles the existing conflict with her own child. She talks how parents are being made to feel guilty and fearful about the acceptability of digital play. We are of the mindset of a more common sense approach and recommend that what is needed is guidance and moderation. Which apps little ones play with is equally important as to how long. Guiding parents of small children regarding optimal mobile use has been a challenging task for pediatricians, until this report came out, apps might be good for kids, pediatricians coming around to mobile use.
In 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended discouraging all media exposure by children under 2 years of age, a policy most recently reaffirmed in 2011. The AAP’s guidance reflected studies showing little educational or developmental benefits for media use in children under 2 along with concerns that media use would distract or replace developmentally vital direct interactions between parents and young children. However, as the media landscape radically changes and apps proliferate, pediatricians are in a challenging position regarding what to recommend to parents. The AAP guidelines do not mention tablets and only mention smartphones once, compared with 42 mentions of “television”. In October 2011, when the AAP guidance was republished, there were 500,000 iOS apps with only 140,000 native to the iPad; that’s compared with the more than 1.3 million available today with 675,000 native to iPad, many of which claim educational benefit. Smartphones have become ubiquitous among parents in clinic. What should providers recommend to families regarding smartphone and tablet apps? Two recent viewpoint articles, by Dimitri Christakis in JAMA Pediatrics and Radesky, Schumacher, and Zuckerman in Pediatrics, attempt to fill in the gap in the AAP’s guidance by offering common-sense approaches to app use for parents. Christakis, the director of Seattle Children’s Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development, argues that touch screen devices — unlike television — can offer similar developmental benefits as toys. Unlike passive watching of TV, apps can offer key benefits such as reactivity (reacting to what the child does), interactivity (prompting reactions from the child), and tailorability (the apps can behave differently depending on the age and developmental status of the child). The other key benefit of apps, which is also stressed by Radesky, Schumacker, and Zuckerman, is the ability for joint attention – that is, the parent and the child can share attention around the apps.