BENEFICIAL SCREEN TIME
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.”