Published Date: 02/19/20
We all know that reading to your children is great for their development. Studies show that children who are read to regularly have heard a million more words by age five than children who aren’t. Reading to children also improves their behavior and actually reduces the chance parents will dole out harsh punishments.
But what happens when you choose to read to your children on tablets instead of from actual printed books? A recent study from the University of Michigan sought to find out if there were major differences in the two.
During the study, a living room was set up and researchers had 37 parents read to their child age 2-3 years. Over a 75-minute time period, mothers and fathers read one print book and one digital book, and results were recorded.
Dr. Tiffany Munzer, a fellow in developmental pediatrics at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital was the lead researcher for the study. She said, "In this study, print books were great for promoting an environment that was rich with reciprocity, but the tablet appeared to create some conflict between parents and toddlers who were both trying to control the tablet.”
Children may sit on your lap or next to you and look at a book you’re reading while you hold it. They may even turn the pages. But when researchers examined parents and children reading on a tablet, struggles ensued over who got to hold the device, with children wanting to press buttons, obstructing the parent’s view, and often exiting the e-book, disrupting the flow of the story.
Social reciprocity was examined in the study, which refers to the nonverbal back-and-forth exchanges between a parent and child when they’re participating in an activity together.
“This act of sharing "creates moments of joy, and is the foundation for child development. It is how children learn new words, gain emotional competence, and builds on their problem-solving abilities," Munzer said. "Social reciprocity is how relationships are nurtured and is important for our future generation's development and achievement."
Because parents and children both sought to control the tablet, more frequently parents needed to address their child’s behavior both verbally and nonverbally. Parents utilized techniques that made children less likely to cooperate or listen, like pivoting their bodies away from the child so they can’t grab it.
According to the researchers, both parents and children enjoy a better reading experience when sharing a print book together versus reading on a tablet.
Munzer said, "In this study, print books were great for promoting an environment that was rich with reciprocity, but the tablet appeared to create some conflict between parents and toddlers who were both trying to control the tablet.”
Researchers concluded that when parents and children snuggle up with a book together the social outcomes and language gains are significantly better than reading on a tablet together.
Most parents give children screen time and it’s important to follow the guidelines provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It seems, according to researchers, that you should skip it when it comes to reading together and stick with print editions.
Check out some of our favorite children’s books.
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