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3 Ways to Make the Most of your Child’s Screen Time

This is a guest blog from Tammy Kwan, Founder of Cognitive ToyBox

The American Academy of Pediatrics is revising their guidelines on screen time or children, renewing conversations about screen time in homes across the country. Here are three key research findings that will help you make educated decisions for your child.

  1. Passive media, like TV, doesn’t lead to learning.

Most research on screen time has focused on TV and the consensus is TV doesn’t help your kids learn. TV isn’t representative of all of screen time, however. Toddlers learn best when they get feedback based on their action. TVs can’t respond to kids’ question the way an app does, so they are left without the feedback they need to learn.

  1. All screen time is not equal.

TV is often conflated with “screen time” but shouldn’t be. TV’s passive nature is very different from “new” screens like computers and tablets, which are interactive. Research shows toddlers learn new words from Skype as easily as they do in-person (Roseberry et al., 2014), which is great news for parents who travel for work but still want to play an active role in their child’s development!

  1. Touchscreen technology is going to change the screen time debate.

Research with touchscreen devices is limited but promising. A recent study showed 4-6-year-olds can apply puzzle strategies they learned from an app to real life situations (Huber, 2016).  There’s even research showing that apps like Bedtime Math can enhance your child’s math achievement (Berkowitz, 2015).

It will take some time and more research to provide definitive recommendations. In the meanwhile, you can rest assured that your child’s active use of tablets or smartphones is better than passively watching TV. Co-playing the app and talking about what’s happening on screen can also help your child to get more out of her screen time.

You should also remember that not every touchscreen experience provides a rich learning: Using a touchscreen as a mini-television with YouTube and NetFlix videos is no better than TV. However, when you carefully choose apps with high-quality content, your child can learn and develop while using the touchscreen.

References

  • Berkowitz, Talia, et al. “Math at home adds up to achievement in school.” Science6257 (2015): 196-198.
  • Huber, Brittany, et al. “Young children’s transfer of learning from a touchscreen device.” Computers in Human Behavior 56 (2016): 56-64.

Roseberry, Sarah, Kathy Hirsh‐Pasek, and Roberta M. Golinkoff. “Skype me! Socially contingent interactions help toddlers learn language.” Child Development 85.3

1b74edeCognitive ToyBox is the creator of ‘First Words Checklist,’ an iPad app to assess toddler and pre-k vocabulary. Tammy founded Cognitive ToyBox to develop science-backed apps to reduce parental anxiety around early childhood. She holds an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business and a BA in Psychology from Stanford University.

 

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