RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Most parents have realized that their children know more about computers than they ever did, or ever will. While it may be encouraging to know that, even at a young age, kids are able to keep up with new technologies, that doesn't exactly mesh medical experts' recommendation that kids spend more time outside, playing with such anachronistic toys as real basketballs or bicycles, than they do inside organizing fantasy basketball leagues or learning to design their own websites. On the other hand, if a child learns to read with a Kindle, isn't he still reading? Towing that fine line between learning and screen time can be difficult, according to one expert, but if you approach technology the right way, you can reap the educational benefits without endangering their developing brains.
THE DETAILS: New devices like e-readers, iPads, and iPhones do provide kids with new ways of consuming information, often in ways that make it more engaging and interactive. Apple's App Store is bulging with programs that reportedly help kids learn the alphabet, develop fine motor skills, and understand basic math, similar to traditional educational video games that have been around for years. Furthermore, an article published recently in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy described one teacher's efforts to improve reading skills in her second grade classroom by using an Amazon's Kindle e-reader. The kids were able to use the device's "Notes" feature as they read to summarize plots and make comments about the characters. While the teacher couldn't provide hard numbers as to whether the e-books improved reading comprehension, her commentary noted that less-enthusiastic readers were more motivated to read a Kindle than a standard paper book.
WHAT IT MEANS: While all this new technology sounds attractive to parents—who doesn't want their child to learn?—there's absolutely no research showing that it is beneficial, says Vic Strasburger, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. "There's no research on educational uses of new technology, and there really needs to be," he says. "But at the same time, I think anything that gets kids interested in reading is good." Dr. Strasburger sits on the panel that writes the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP's) position statements on kids' exposure to media, and he says that the group is aware of the potential conflict between the benefits of educational technology and the organization's fairly strict recommendation that kids get no more than two hours of screen time every day. That covers TV, computer, and "other" electronic screens, and includes older children and teenagers.
Filed Under: CHILDREN'S HEALTH
Published on: May 3, 2010