Sunday, December 19, 2010

The "i" in iPad does not stand for "infant"

In unadjusted and adjusted analyses, duration of media exposure at age 6 months was associated with lower cognitive development at age 14 months...and lower language development .... No significant associations were
seen with exposure to young child–oriented educational or noneducational content.

"She loved the animation and music right away and very quickly began to touch the screen and interact with the moving bees, bugs and cows."
[Mother of 8 month old.]

No, she's interacting with pixels on a flat screen. Really. I got a nice loupe you can borrow. Better yet, get your child one once she's old enough not to choke on it.

"Parents will believe, and correctly, that using an iPad will better prepare their children for the future than watching TV." [PC World, best place for parenting advice on the net!]

Um, yep. And milk is better than whiskey for the teething crowd.

"An iPad is an ideal kid pacifier."
An iPhone probably fits better, though.

"Children learn with their fingers."
[Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Software Review, pushing the iPad's appeal in discussion with Will Richardson--listen at 0:52.

The screen is flat, like the new world we're making for our children. Good Lord, they'll be marketing virtual mudpies while their parents sip virtual martinis with virtual friends.

I'm a retired pediatrician. I know a little bit about children. And it's not just me. The American Academy of Pediatrics made these recommendations back in 2001:

Pediatricians should recommend the following guidelines for parents:

  1. Limit children's total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day.

  2. Remove television sets from children's bedrooms.

  3. Discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing, andreading together.

  4. Monitor the shows children and adolescents are viewing. Most programs should be informational, educational, and nonviolent.

  5. View television programs along with children, and discuss the content. Two recent surveys involving a total of nearly 1500 parents found that less than half of parents reported always watching television with their children.

  6. Use controversial programming as a stepping-off point to initiate discussions about family values, violence, sex and sexuality,and drugs.

  7. Use the videocassette recorder wisely to show or record high-quality, educational programming for children. Support efforts to establish comprehensive media-education programs in schools.

  8. Encourage alternative entertainment for children, including reading, athletics, hobbies, and creative play.

If you're going to pay for something more expensive than a set of blocks or a few lumps of clay, be a parent and make a reasonable effort to see if it will harm your child.

Good information is out there, once you get past the hucksters.

Photo of electrode baby by Eve Vagg, found on Live Science.

Photo of iPad baby from odeedoh here. Not sure who took the photo.


David said...

By far my son's favourite toy is his Lego set. He'd much rather build things in the real world.

I see him after he's watched a video and he's become zombie-like. We limit his screen-time and are quite happy when he plays with his blocks and Legos.

That being said, our fast-paced "you must own a house and work all the time" society doesn't leave a lot of time for parents to really interact with their children.

I think many parents are using these devices as baby-sitters because of the reality that our economy doesn't support being parents anymore.

Lisa Nielsen said...

Mr. Doyle, I want to caution your readers to be suspect of your research. The study you site looks at reach of what happens when technology is used in low SES homes. There is now a lot of research that says the presence of technology like the presence of non technology educational supplements like books do not alone support learning. It is the culture and values of the household. A family that does not embrace a culture of learning won’t do so just because a researcher places technology in their home and if they’re led to believe this may result in learning and improperly have their child using it, I wouldn’t imagine it would result in increased cognitive development.

Your second study is a decade old written before an iPad or iTouch were even the Apple of any student’s eye. Your study is referring to the media of passive television which I agree in it’s natural sit and watch state holds little value. It did not refer to the personal, connected, interactive technology available today. More recent reports expose the virtues of mobile media such as the one I wrote about here

I get concerned when educators point to tech as the enemy. It’s a tool that can be used effectively to help students and adults interact and connect. When we stop fighting and start empowering students to harness the power of technology in meaningful ways, everyone wins.

doyle said...

Dear David,

We make our picks and take our chances. I agree that we have difficult choices to make as parents.

Using electronic devices as baby sitters, however, would be a last option, I would hope.

Dear The Innovative Educator,

Oh, I trust my readers will see that the study used low SES families. I also trust that they grasp p values, and that they realize this is just one study. If I didn't trust my readers, I would not have bothered with the link.

The thrust of the study is not that these devices do not help; they harm development. This is a big deal.

At any rate, it's not my study.

I did not include a second study; I did include a policy statement of the AAP. Interactive computers were indeed available then, but you raise a good point, which is why the study I cited above matters.

Again, I do not point to tech as the enemy, any more than I would point to a glass of ale as the enemy. Still, I would not waste a decent bottle of IPA on a toddler. Nor would I expose a toddler to an iPad. Hours are finite.

I will look into your reference on your blog, and any other sources that provide evidence that interactive e-media has a positive effect on a child's development. Feel free to give direct references here, too. The few readers I have tend to be bright enough to interpret outside sources.

I trust them. You can, too.

doyle said...

Dear The Innovative Educator,

I checked your post--I see the reports, but not the studies. One of the links was dead (404 message), so maybe it was to be found there earlier.

In addition, my post was referring to the toddler and under crowd.

I'll snoop around some more when I get the chance. Time to get the Christmas lights up!

doyle said...

Dear The Innovative Educator,

Um, one more thing.

I agree that a "culture" of learning makes a difference in how students do at school. I'd be careful, though, slinging "low SES" and "culture and values of a household" together in the same paragraph. Smells like Calvinism to me, though I may have an overly sensitive nose.

Let me assure you that plenty of families revere books and learning while stuck on the left side of the SES percentile tables. Plenty of families on the right side do not.

Just sayin'

Lisa Nielsen said...

o The studies I refer to about increased tech in low SES not resulting in academic gains are out there. Gathering them is perhaps a task for a future blog post (yours or mine). The studies were done in low SES to see if bridging the digital divide would indeed have positive results. The point is, the tech alone isn’t what leads to gains just as the book or slide rule alone doesn’t lead to gains. It is how they are used that will lead to gains or losses.
o To clarify, I agree with what you’re saying about low SES. My point as stated above is the studies focus on the wrong thing. It’s not the tech, the book, or the slide rule, but rather how each are used and how we measure success. As I stated in the post that brought you to my blog and me to yours, laptops dumped in a school won’t magically produce gains and when we believe they alone are the magic bullet, they often produce losses. If they come into the home or school from the outside, rather than the inside you don’t get the same results. As a resident of Harlem for the past decade and an employee in the area for longer I have seen first hand the positive results that media be it books, computers, games, or video can provide students from any background when they are supported by teachers and families who value learning and/or their desire is intrinsic.

doyle said...

Dear The Innovative Educator,

That tech tools or books may not improve cognitive ability by merely placing them in a home is not news. Here's the news: placing high tech tools in front of very young children harms development.

This does not surprise pediatricians.It should surprise the parents hounded by various hucksters pushing "educational" e-tech products for the very young.

No matter where you live.

nashworld said...

The first photo above is ridiculous. Really... there is nothing left to say after that. I could agree with this post in it's entirety. Or, I could once again toss in my usual appeal that folks be smart when doing anything with the youngins. It seems to me that the magnitude of any error in parenting might just be inversely proportional to the age of the child at the time (particularly under the age of four).

For better or worse, I tend to assume a great deal of parental savvy inherent in the folks who read what was once my blog. And then I see that photograph.

That image reminds me of... Oh, I don't know what it reminds me of to tell the truth. Poster for some sick sci-fi B-movie perhaps. It really just makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

I am a evangelist of instructional technology but believe strongly there are many activities children need more than facetime with an IPad or any kind of media. Teach them how to move, interact, be social and think. Most effective is to spend time with your child.