Families & the Community

Lack of Research Hinders Debate Over Use of Touch-Screen Devices

By Julie Rasicot — May 29, 2012 1 min read
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In case you missed it, there was another interesting discussion on the use of iPads, smart phones, and other touch-screen devices by young children.

NPR talk show host Diane Rehm gathered together several guests to talk about the ongoing debate over the advantages and disadvantages of exposing these kids to interactive media.

They included: Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation and the author of “Screen Time, How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child"; Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Worthen; Heather Kirkorian, assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison; and Liz Perle, editor-in-chief of Common Sense Media.

The take-home message? There still isn’t any definitive research available that can tell us how use of these devices is impacting our children and their development—for better or worse.

“We know virtually nothing about the impact of these devices,” Kirkorian said.

While we wait to see what develops, Guernsey suggests that parents and educators pay attention to what she calls the three C’s: content, context, and the child.

There’s “a real difference” between joint engagement when a child and a parent read a book or use a device together versus a kid using one alone, she said. And kids will have different experiences based on such factors as their ages, the availability of adults to engage them, and their access to technology.

“We can’t be monolithic in the ways we think about what this interactive media is going to mean to children,” Guernsey said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.