Toddlers and Touch Screens

touch screensInteractive touch screens are better learning devices for toddlers under age 2.5 than educational television shows.[1] University of Wisconsin Assistant Professor of Human Development, Heather Kirkorian, Ph.D. states that even young toddlers are able to learn from interactive touch screens.1 Sesame Street closed many educational gaps for children during the preschool years in the past, leading Kirkorian and colleagues to believe that interactive screens may also benefit even younger children.1

To begin, Kirkorian and colleagues looked for a link between a child’s attention while they were viewing a video—what are they looking at, and how can we know what they are learning?1 Asking for interaction, touch screens assure that toddlers have to actually interact in some way to see what happens next.1

Adults and toddlers watch television very differently.1 Adults are systematic and look at the same thing as each other.1 Toddlers do not.1 They learn much less from a video than from a demonstration.1 Therefore, using interactive touch screens can help to assure the child is engaged and learning1 Media producers and educators can potentially benefit from this research, aiming learning at toddlers better than before.1 Also, parents can use this research to decide how they choose to use media in the home for educational purposes.1

There are many educational applications on the market for toddlers to use and learn from, and more are being created daily.1 The applications help with hand-eye coordination, as well as finger movements.1

However, too much time on the touch screen can hurt their development.1 Kids need to run and jump and build and draw to develop their muscles and spark their imagination.1 Fine motor skills can’t always be learned from a tablet.1 Therefore, the use of a tablet must be monitored, and only an hour per day is recommended.1

On the other hand, learning animals, the alphabet, and how to count can be increased with interactive touch screens.1 Also, spelling and reading are able to be taught.1 Interactive touch screens invite children to think and respond.1 While passive media, such as television shows, should be avoided in children under two, interactive tablets can actually benefit, when monitored.1 They hold potential for early learning.1

[1] Pedersen, T. (2013). Toddlers May Learn More From Touch Screens Than Educational TV. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 20, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/11/16/toddlers-may-learn-more-from-touch-screens-than-educational-tv/62113.html

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