A friend and I have been discussing this on Facebook. She asks: My instinct is to encourage my kids to spend as much time as they want playing Memory with real cards, but to limit their time playing "Make a Match" on the phone/tablet. Likewise for other completely parallel games. Trying to figure out why. Is there some valid educational principle here that's motivating me, or am I just being an old fuddy duddy technophobe for no good reason. Thoughts?
Important question! Your mom instincts are correct -- children learn largely through human interaction, and we should focus our efforts on relaxed, fun interactions with our kids. That's how they learn the best. Studies have confirmed this, with findings including the fact that babies easily learn foreign languages from a real teacher -- but NOT from "baby learning" videos.
Children are primarily sensory learners -- they learn from the information they pick up from ALL their major senses, in addition to their emotions and feelings. While apps and toys with bling are temporarily fun, they shouldn't be used as substitutes for hands-on, real-world learning. As your children get older, they will certainly learn more and more from technology, and I'm not suggesting you need to be a technophobe. But young children especially learn best from YOU!