Can Apps and Devices be Educational for Babies? Why Devices Aren’t a Substitute for Parent Interaction
Friday, August 9th, 2013
How old is too young for a smartphone and a tablet? Is there value in giving them to babies? The American Academy of Pediatrics supports a “screen free” stance for kids under the age of two but in many cases, parents are handing their kids devices at younger ages partly because of the apps that are being created to target this age group. But are these apps truly educational for this age?
Despite claims by manufacturers that apps can be educational, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Fisher-Price and Open Solutions charging both companies with false marketing their apps apps for babies as educational. Designed for infants as young as six months, CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn said, “Fisher-Price and Open Solutions exploit parents’ natural tendency to want what’s best for their babies…time with tablets and smart phones is really the last thing very young children need for optimal learning and development.”
But what do kids really need?
Findings from a 20 year study by Martha Farah, Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, published by The Guardian determined the effects of childhood stimulation of brain development beginning at age 4. The longitudinal study involved visits to homes to determine the number of children’s books they had, if the family had toys to teach children about colors, numbers or letters, and whether they played with real or toy musical instruments. Parents were also observed to determine how much warmth, support, or care the child they provided and received a “parental nurturance” score. Farah found that cognitive stimulation from books and educational toys from early childhood had a significant effect on a person’s brain into their late teens. Researchers also determined that the amount of mental stimulation a child gets around age four correlated to more highly developed language and cognition skills in later life.
Kids at the youngest ages need interaction that comes from parents and caregivers to stimulate their brains and foster language skills along with social and emotional development. Authors Jamie Loehr, M.D. and Jen Meyers provide simple suggestions for parents in Activities to Enhance Baby’s Cognitive Development: 0-3 Months. They suggest reading to your child to get them used to the sound of your voice, talking to them and maintaining eye contact, providing them with noisy toys to learn cause and effect, showing them mirrors so they can see themselves and their movements, and singing. Activities for ages 3-6 months expand on a child’s development and include exposing them to new textures and introducing a variety of sounds through musical instruments that they can play themselves.
While apps and devices have educational value and can certainly reinforce skills and engage kids in a positive way as they synthesize information, they’re not a substitute for what parents can provide to their developing baby.
Baby boy playing with computer tablet via ShutterstockAdd a Comment