The high tech revolution has made mobile devices more easily available for kids as well as adults. There are many concerns that although access to high tech has many advantages in formal and informal education overuse of mobile and interactive media by kids may nevertheless have negative consequences which are not all presently clear to us. Boston University Medical Center reported via EurekAlert Jan. 30, 2015, on the good, the bad and the unknown which is associated with mobile and interactive media use by young kids.
The wide availability of mobile devices has lead to their more frequent use at younger ages. The precise impact which these mobile devices are having on the development and behavior of kids remains relatively unknown. Researchers have raised some questions about the potential detrimental role of interactive media in stunting the development of vital tools for self-regulation.
Previous studies have shown that kids under the age of 30 months can’t learn as well from television and videos as they can from real-life interactions. There have not been as many studies investigating whether this is the case with interactive applications. Early research has suggested that interactive media such as electronic books can be helpful in teaching vocabulary and reading comprehension, but only in children preschool-age or older kids. It appears that infants and toddlers learn best via hands-on and face-to-face experiences.
Researchers have raised concerns that if mobile devices become the predominant method to calm and distract young kids they may not be able to develop their own internal mechanisms for self-regulation. Jenny Radesky, MD, clinical instructor in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, has pointed out that mobile media use as is also seen with TV use replaces the amount of time kids spend engaging in direct human-human interaction.
What concerns the researchers is whether heavy mobile device use during early childhood could undermine the normal development of empathy, social and problem solving skills. These skills are typically obtained by exploring, unstructured play and by interacting directly with peers. Dr. Radesky is also concerned that these devices also may replace the hands-on activities which are important for the development of sensorimotor and visual-motor skills. These skills are important for the learning and application of math and science.
This study has been published in the journal Pediatrics. Although the use of interactive screen media such as smartphones and tablets by young kids has been increasing rapidly research regarding the impact of this portable and instantly accessible source of screen time on learning, behavior, and family dynamics has considerably fallen behind its rapid rate of adoption. Specific pediatric guidelines dealing with mobile device use by young kids have not yet been formulated.
Parents are therefore advised to try each mobile application before allowing their kids to access it. It has also been suggested that parents should use these applications with their kids because using interactive media together clearly enhances its educational value. It seems reasonable to conclude that overall direct human interaction for kids and adults alike should not be completely replaced by high tech mobile and interactive media.