How the iPad Affects Young Children

What medium is delivering the best learning experience to your children? Just because a child is engaged on an iPad, are they learning more than they would with a picture book?

In this intriguing TEDx talk, author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media Affects Your Young Child and Director of the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative, Lisa Guernsey, discusses the research she has been involved with, as well as some the practical outcomes of her work exploring learning and screen media.

Starting out with a child’s perspective of television, Lisa describes a number of interesting scenarios that highlight how much our experiences and preconceptions as adults alter our view of screen media.

We adults think kids are seeing what we’re seeing, but it turns out that they need to first have a real store of background knowledge, they have to have gone through life to understand things the way that we adults understand them.

There’s a young viewer of Sesame Street who once declared: ‘I know that Big Bird is not real. It’s just a costume and there’s just a plain bird inside’. So we know that kids are seeing things a little differently than we might be seeing them, but does that mean they’re not learning anything from it?

What is particularly interesting in Lisa’s talk is research showing that just like traditional media, the same rules of engagement and interaction apply to digital and screen media.

We have some studies from an older type of technology called the children’s picture book and in these studies we have learned that you need to help children not just hear the words that are written on the page, but to actually understand the story. You can interact with kids, talk to them about what they’re seeing on the page, ask them questions about it. And it turns out, and this is where the good news for those of us who are surrounded by screen media with our children, it turns out that there are some hints now that this same logic applies to using screen media with young children as well.

Putting this together into actionable practice, Lisa gives advice on how to get the most out of screen media using the three C’s – Content, Context and the Child.

We need to focus on the content on the screen. The context, how we are interacting with children around that media and making sure they have good interactions when they’re not with the media. And then the child, our children. We understand our kids, we know what’s going to delight them, we know what kinds of questions they might ask, we need to just tune in to see what they understand from it.

How do you feel the learning experience differs using an iPad or screen media versus a physical book? Do you think there is a benefit to one or the other? Or do you feel both have different strengths and purposes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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