A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

Toddlers Learn Best with Interactive Apps

MADISON, Wis. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Preschoolers can learn a lot from just a little screen time. But are educational television programs the best forum? What about interactive digital media, like touchscreen apps, with an estimated four million now available to download? A new study explores the science behind parents’ many options.

There are so many “educational” apps, videos, and games available, but so little guidance.

“Technology is all around her and she is experiencing it more than we had planned,” mom Jaclyn Schneider told Ivanhoe.

“Are there creative ways my child can engage with technology?” asked parent Amy Shannon.

Heather Kirkorian, PhD, a developmental psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, and her colleagues reviewed a number of studies to determine if two-year-olds would learn best from interactive digital media. Researchers already knew that younger toddlers have a hard time transferring information they’ve only watched on video to a real-life object. But when a child uses an interactive app, it may focus her attention on the object she’s learning about. Kirkorian said that a parent or caregiver should also play along.

“Younger children will learn more in any situation if they’re interacting with a more knowledgeable partner, so a parent or teacher or older child,” detailed Kirkorian.

Kirkorian said that right now there’s not a lot of research available on interactive media, but parents should choose apps that are simple. Apps with a clear educational or creative goal are best.

Kirkorian continued, “Apps [can] allow children to play and explore in a semi-structured experience. So maybe [allow] them to make choices and try out different ideas and see what happens.”

The researchers say that kids with experience using video chat seem to learn more from interactive apps because they know that what they see on the screen also exists in real life.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Research cited from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cdep.12290

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