Can applications make your children smarter?

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By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, December 23, 2019 (HealthDay News) – Smartphones, tablets and laptops are everywhere, and young children are fascinated by them. Now, new research suggests that parents could take advantage of that curiosity and use applications on devices to boost early learning.

The review found that applications could be particularly useful for teaching early mathematical and linguistic skills.

"Screen time is here, and it is here to stay. We should not only pay attention to the amount of screen time, but maximize screen time. The idea is to look for ways to take advantage of screen time in a positive way, "said study author Shayl Griffith, a postdoctoral associate in the department of psychology at Florida International University in Miami.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against any screen time before 18 months, except video chat. From 18 to 24 months, for those who want to present their children with digital media, the AAP recommends the limited use of high quality applications that you use with your child. Starting at 2 years, the AAP says to limit the screen time to one hour a day.

But instead of looking at the potential risks of too much time in front of the screen, Griffith and his team focused on the potential benefits of allowing children to use applications. These readily available products are certainly effective in capturing the attention of children. The researchers wondered if that would be useful for teaching children certain skills.

The researchers looked at 35 studies that had been previously done. The studies included more than 4,600 children under 6 years. The children were from the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Greece, Croatia, the Netherlands and Germany.

The applications in the studios had to be an interactive game application on a touch screen. Interactive generally means that when a child interacts with the screen, it has an effect on the material presented. For example, children may have to match items, or they may have to count items.

The review also included three studies that used applications for children with autism to try to teach social communication skills. Griffith said that these applications could ask a child to do things like identify a facial expression.


Griffith said the applications appeared to be stronger in teaching math and pre-literacy language skills. "Academic skills can be more conducive to app learning. These are fundamental skills that must be repeated and varied in practice," he said.

The applications did not seem to help significantly with social communication skills for children with autism. Griffith said that while the children improved by playing the apps over time, that experience didn't seem to translate into real-world social communication skills.

The review was published online on December 23 in the magazine. Pediatrics.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Michael Rich, of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, said this year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the original childhood media teachers, "Sesame Street ", and said that program really set the tone. that applications and other "edutainings" of early childhood should follow.

Rich said that parents and children should realize that "all media, including books and blackboards, are educational, but what they teach and how they teach varies. The screens are especially suited to capture the attention of children. Even if you try to get away, it's harder than it is with a book. "

But that does not mean that the screens are intrinsically bad. Rich said they are a "powerful, but neutral, tool that can be used in several ways."

He said it is important that parents do not constantly rely on these devices or televisions to be an "electronic nanny." If you let your child watch TV or a movie on a tablet so you can prepare dinner, "the problem is that you are not there to help your child process the information and content they see. They can see a preview of a violent film, and because you let them watch, it's as if you were tacitly tolerating it, and it leads the children to think it's normal, and they could be terrified, "he explained.

"We should expect more from our screens," Rich said.

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SOURCES: Shayl Griffith, Ph.D., postdoctoral associate, department of psychology, Florida International University, Miami; Michael Rich, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Children's Media and Health Center, Boston Children's Hospital, and Pediatrics Department, Harvard Medical School and Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; December 23, 2019Pediatricsonline

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