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The Type of Screen Time Kids Are Getting Matters as Much as the Amount

A new report by early learning experts says that young children can benefit from time spent interacting with devices -- alongside their parents. 

Given that the average kid spends 5-7 hours total on screens, according to National Institute of Health’s Medline Plus, plenty of parents are concerned that their L.O. may be getting too much screen time. But the amount of time kids spend playing games or watching Paw Patrol clips on YouTube is only one piece of the puzzle. According to a new report from early learning experts, the type of screen time is important as the amount of time children spending engaged with devices. 

Rachel Barr, PhD, is a Georgetown University developmental psychologist and an expert in learning and memory in young children. In her latest research, Barr supplied 50 moms of 15-month-old infants with touchscreen tablets and toys, like a rattle, notes FoxLive8.com. The mothers then had five minutes teach their kids that a rattle works in real life the same way it works on a touchscreen tablet. Barr concluded that kids were 19 times more likely to succeed if they had an adult helping them make the connection. 

Earlier this year, Barr talked to NPR about similar research she conducted with 2- and 3-year-olds. "Learning from apps and connecting it to the real world is challenging for a really young child," she explained. "When we watch children play with touchscreens, it seems so intuitive to them. It's very easy for us to forget that they are just like any other tool. And just like any other tool, children are going to need to learn how to learn from them."

The bottom-line: Parents will do well to offer context and help their kids make real world connections to digital content. As Barr told NPR, "It doesn't have to be a whole lot, but the trick is to think about apps and the television more like you think about picture books."