iTime versus We time
28 Mar 2013
It’s a little embarrassing when you see a three or four year old handling an iPad with all the skill of an F1 driver, while you fumble around trying to work out how to get into iTunes. What is unclear is what the long-term effects of high level exposure to mobile devices is going to have on children’s cognitive and social skills. We all know that high-rotation TV watching has an impact on said developmental areas – but what about the iRevolution – is it iThink, therefore iAm, or simply a way for mum and dad to keep the kids happy?
In late 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised parents — again — to eliminate TV screen time for children under two, citing concerns “about language delays and disrupted sleep”. The Academy’s report drew on studies showing that TV viewing, whether it’s the parent or the child watching, interferes with ‘talk time’ between parent and child, which is crucial to language development. Is it the same for iPads? Because with over 900 apps for children in iTunes, there are obviously a lot of people with a vested interest in the answer.
“We just don’t have the data yet,” says Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician and member of the AAP.
Rose Luckin, a professor of learner-centered design at the University of London, has found that tablets can actually spark the sort of social interaction central to the learning process. She found that five and six year olds who recorded school activities on tablets and replayed them for their parents tended to learn better. “One of the key benefits of technologies such as the iPad is that they can become a focus for conversations between parents and children,” she says. “If the device is right in the middle of the family, in the kitchen, in the lap, then as a parent, you’re much more able to have those kinds of shared experiences.”
This is all dependent on parents actually sharing the iPad experience with their children, rather than using it as a substitute for their attention. And the issue arises as to the type of apps being used. If parents do need to park the pre-schoolers – or the pre-pubescents for that matter – then make the apps educational rather than using the tablet as a viewing device. Also, put strict limits on when and for how long the iPad can be used for, and make it a reward for good behaviour – a treat – rather than a given.
Some excellent educational apps are:
Monkey Pre-School Lunchbox – Preschool
Duck Duck Moose – Reading program
Starwalk – Astronomy Guide
Easter is definitely family time – but by the same token, parents need a break too! So instead of too much chocolate, maybe a teaching app or two isn’t a bad thing for the Easter Bunny to give away?
I am planning to switch off all devices in our house and have some the much needed We time this weekend.