The amount of time children spend with their iPads, tablets and mobile phones is an increasing concern. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently amended its suggested guidelines to limit screen time for children 18 months to 5 years old to only one hour per day.
Instead of staring at a screen, researchers are suggesting that children and parents turn to a form traditional form: the book. Studies show that physical books engage children’s imagination and curiosity to a greater extent. Shane Bergin, physicist and education expert at University College Dublin, states “The power of reading with somebody else is that you get to test out some of your notions of the world.”
Bergin goes on to say that shared reading can help open up a story to children, with parents on hand to answer questions and be a sounding board for ideas and responses. This parent-child interaction, known as ‘dialogic reading’ is harder to achieve with a smartphone or tablet. Instead of parent and child interacting around a story, their relationship is centred around the actual device, making the time less intimate .A number of studies have found parents using an e-reader or similar device spend more time giving their children instructions on how to use the device correctly than actually engaging with the story.
“I’m not a Luddite at all, but I think the book plays a special role” Bergin says, declaring that tablets “can quickly become a television program or change its use very, very quickly.”
Alongside 8-12 hours sleep a night (depending on the age of the child) and one hour’s exercise a day, the AAP also recommends that “children should not sleep with media devices in their rooms and should avoid any screen time for at least an hour before bed,” in order to ensure restful sleep. The plan also suggests “designating screen-free locations at home, such as the bedroom, as well as media-free times such as family dinnertime or while driving.”