To App or Not to App: What’s Best for My Baby’s Brain – by Jean Todesca

Read Jean Todesca’s column in the July 31, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. Jean is the Head of Children’s Services at the Morrill Memorial Library.

As children’s librarians, we are often faced with the screen time question.  What is too much?  Should babies and young children be allowed screen time?  We are often challenged over the use of iPad and computers.  We are currently developing a storytime that incorporates the use of iPad and apps.  As we move forward, we understand some parents will have concerns.

Dr. Dimtri Christakis, Director of Child Health Behavior & Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute states “Screens are purely a delivery mechanism.  What parents should be focused on is content”.  He feels former statements by the American Academy of Pediatrics are out of date.  I agree.

Apps and games need to be interactive not passive to stimulate and develop the child’s brain.  Recently, I participated in a class where app reviews were a requirement.  I compared the “Pop-Up Peter Rabbit” storytime app to “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” app.  The pop-up version promoted exploration within the app while the other version was flat with no interaction.  Often when a parent has a young child who does not want to sit and be read to, I suggest interactive books.  Interactive books will draw the child into the story through the use of flaps, pop-up, touch & feel or repetitive verse.  They are all vehicles to involve the child in the reading process.  Apps are the same approach, but a different mode of delivery.  The child will explore and grow with activities that call for their response or touch/swipe to control the activity.  Young children can improve eye/hand coordination, speech & language and conceptual thinking.  The library has recently added iPads for young children’s use.  One of the apps that was loaded on to the iPads is Color Zen Kids.  It’s a great example of design to develop conceptual thinking.

Parents as well as teachers and librarians must make thoughtful app choices.  Some of the best sites for app reviews are Common Sense Media, Graphite and Google Play for Education.

Like any other technology or activity, moderation is the key.  Screen time can be fun, entertaining and educational, but only screen time is too much for anyone whether an adult or child.

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