BEN­E­FI­CIAL SCREEN TIME

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Yourtoddler -

Try a game be­fore giv­ing it to your child. Play the game or app with her at first. Set a timer to limit screen time. Choose apps that boost de­vel­op­ment. If your child uses an app by her­self, talk to her about it af­ter­wards. Re­late what she sees on screen to the real world, ex­plain­ing dif­fer­ences. tele­vi­sion and films as they do from re­al­life in­ter­ac­tions, the re­port says. How­ever, one study dis­cov­ered that two-year-olds can learn as many new verbs via a Skype con­ver­sa­tion as through a face-to-face one. The key dif­fer­ence was in­ter­ac­tion.

“Re­search sug­gests that in­ter­ac­tive me­dia, like e-books and learn-to-read apps, can help de­velop preschool­ers’ lit­er­acy skills too, if the child is aged two or over,” says Jenny. “Younger chil­dren only re­spond to the fea­tures of the tablet – for ex­am­ple, its shape, tex­ture or ‘what hap­pens if I bash it?’”

CHOOSE APPS CARE­FULLY

“Apps only of­fer ben­e­fits if they’re well-de­signed forms of me­dia, with­out dis­tract­ing fea­tures, such as in­va­sive sound ef­fects,” Jenny says of the re­search. One study sug­gests that some apps can im­prove preschool­ers’ in­for­ma­tion pro­cess­ing, mem­ory and im­pulse con­trol, but again, only if they’re well de­signed.

“Many apps claim to be ed­u­ca­tional, but then don’t have any in­put from real ex­perts,” says Jenny. “Whereas oth­ers in­volve psy­chol­o­gists in their de­vel­op­ment.”

THE PROS AND CONS

You can get a lot of ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences from tech­nol­ogy that you can’t from a book. “I look at YouTube videos with my five-year-old, who’s re­ally into whales and space,” says Jenny. But recog­nise its lim­i­ta­tions, too. “What tech­nol­ogy can’t teach you is how to han­dle it when the kid next door wants to play with your favourite toy,” she says. “You need the real world to learn em­pa­thy, so­cial skills and prob­lem solv­ing.”

Be sure to bal­ance any screen time with old-fash­ioned play. “There’s a con­cern that screen time might dis­place other ac­tiv­i­ties that de­velop sen­sory and mo­tor abil­i­ties like climb­ing or build­ing,” Jenny says.

USE IT WISELY

The most im­por­tant mes­sage to emerge from Jenny’s re­port is that it’s how we use tech­nol­ogy, rather than the tech­nol­ogy’s qual­i­ties per se, that re­ally mat­ters. Mo­bile me­dia, says the re­port, “has great po­ten­tial to pro­mote learn­ing through joint en­gage­ment be­tween care­givers and chil­dren.”

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