Parents who want to read to their toddlers and give them a developmental boost should get a traditional paper book rather than an e-book on a tablet, according to a new study.
Toddlers are more likely to interact with their parents when they share a paper children’s book rather than a tablet, researchers at the University of Michigan have found.
Parents also tend to talk more to their children when reading a paper book.
Additionally, unruly children prone to emotional outbursts reacted better to their parents when reading print rather than digital material.
The value of reading to your child isn’t just what’s on the page, but your experience with it, child development experts explained.
“Children thrive through reciprocal interactions with loving and responsive adults in their environment,” said Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, associate professor of pediatrics, human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. .
“This is the main thing that stimulates their development, whether it is speaking or social / emotional skills,” added Navsaria, who was not in the study.
Paper books produce richer interactions between toddlers and their parents than e-books, according to the new study.
This is important to know because 98% of families with children under 9 own a smartphone or tablet, and toddlers spend an average of more than two hours a day using digital media, researchers said in briefing notes.
“While tablets and other technology are exciting, the best value for money will always be from that paper book,” said Dr. Brandi Freeman, pediatrician and associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She played no role in the report.
For the study, researchers looked at interactions between 72 parents and their toddlers, ages 2 to 3, as they read sets of nursery rhymes in print or on a tablet app.
The nursery rhymes included standards like Itsy Bitsy Spider One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Hickory, Dickory, Dock, and Pat-A-Cake.
Parents with a tablet tended to ask fewer questions and talk less with their toddler about nursery rhymes while reading, according to the results.
These open ended questions are rocket fuel for a child’s brain development, Freeman said.
“If anyone reads a book on Clifford – ‘Do you see a big red dog? ” ‘What is he doing?’ “Does he seem to be happy?” “Different things to get the kid engaged,” Freeman said.
“Even if they don’t answer, it’s that kind of curious open-ended question that helps in terms of development,” Freeman said.
Additionally, children tend to pay less attention to parents when sharing a tablet. They were less responsive to what their parents said, and rowdy toddlers were more likely to get angry and act.
EBooks are marketed as being better for kids because they’re more interactive, with tactile hot spots that cause animation or sound, Navsaria said.
But all of these characteristics turn out to be an unfortunate distraction from the most important thing about reading – the shared experience of parent and child.
The interactive features “act as a distractor because the kid is looking for what makes something happen, which printed books usually don’t,” Navsaria said.
“The tablet ends up introducing these distractions in different ways, which makes it more difficult. A parent has to work harder to do the interaction work,” Navsaria said.
The interactive features of eBooks also make parents less likely to ask questions or speak, because the book does most of that work for them, Freeman said.
Navsaria does not want to demonize tablets and recognizes that they can be very useful for parents on the go.
“There are situations where books on a tablet may be preferable. A family is traveling or shopping or whatever, and it’s easier to carry a tablet than a stack of 40 picture books.” , said Navsaria.
But parents would be better off if they bought e-books that lack interactive features and function more like traditional paper books, he said.
“Choose more standard eBooks, which don’t have interactive bells and whistles, where images appear on screen much like in a printed book,” Navsaria said.
“This will reduce the likelihood of children being distracted. Recognizing that reading shared on a screen in this way is probably better than no reading if your other choice is not to have a book,” Navsaria said.
The study by Dr. Tiffany Munzer and colleagues was published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more information on the benefits of reading for children.
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