Are eBooks Beneficial Or Detrimental For Toddlers?

Reading to your child is well known to be beneficial for his or her development. With the rise of eBooks, many parents now use their tablets for bedtime stories. However, many parents wonder whether there is a difference between reading to a child using a traditional book or using a tablet. Many studies have shown too much screen time is detrimental to a toddler’s mental development. However, parents wonder whether eBooks count as screen time, since using a tablet is technically a screen but the action is reading. It is a difficult argument that continues to range with sound arguments on both sides and no official answer yet.

The Benefits Of eBooks For Toddlers

Over the past few years, numerous tablets have hit the market, including the Samsung NOOK. Tablets have become popular because they provide a combination of eReader and laptop computer that is easy to take with you anywhere. Many consumers have found using a tablet an easier way to amass a library without using up the physical space.

Additionally, with many public libraries offering digital services, parents can bring their children plenty of books to read without having to spend money. With the rise of this technology, many eBook publishers have created books that also have video and audio options integrated into the books, especially for children. Some programs on tablets also can help a child learn to read without a parent having to supervise. This has the capability to further enhance a child’s reading skills, but many experts wonder if it might actually be detrimental.

Studies Reveal eBooks Can Harm Children’s Learning

Recently, some studies have found that eBooks may be worse for children than print books. One study was from the UK’s National Literacy Trust. It stated that kids reading digital books had poorer reading skills than those reading paper books. Other studies have also found that reading from an eBook led to poorer reading comprehension skills in the child. The study, and others, believed that it was due to the children focusing on the device more than on the story, unlike when they read with a print book and interact with the pages. Additionally, parents also did not talk as much with their children as when reading print books. Print books tend to enhance dialogic reading, which creates a back and forth dialogue of the story that enhances linguistic development.

The Problem With The Studies

Although experts performed the surveys and studies, there were some limitations to their studies. According to Digital Book World, one of the main limitations of these studies includes the causality of the survey. It did not answer whether eReaders were the cause of the poorer literacy rates in the National Literacy Trust survey or whether higher skilled readers chose print over digital when reading. Additionally, many children’s eBooks are not strictly books anymore. They have additions to the books, including video and audio, which add interactivity to the book. This alters how parents, and children, interact with the books. These enhancements also can help children to learn and enhance their linguistic skills.

The Detriments Of Screen Time

According to the New York Times, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to read to children beginning at birth and not exposing them to screens prior to the age of 2 and limit the time after that to less than two hours a day. Parents become confused about the combination of these two protocols when reading to their children with tablets.

Several studies have found that screen time is detrimental to a toddler’s development. Screen time in these studies typically focuses on television, computers, and video games, not on reading digital books. There is a limited amount of research on eBooks and children because of the newness of the devices. However, some studies have found that interactive apps have helped toddlers to pick up language faster than apps that have no action.

A Lasting Debate

Many experts still do not know what to recommend to parents about whether or not to read eBooks to toddlers, and time and additional research is needed to discover a firm recommendation. However, eBooks do not strictly constitute as screen time, so they can be beneficial for the linguistic and brain development of children. The eBooks can play a valuable role in educating children, as long as they are supplemented with traditional books and learning as well. Parents should remain wary about using tablets too often for entertaining or teaching their children, even with reading.

To get the most out of reading an eBook to your child, try to read it in the same way you would a traditional print book. Do not let the tablet or app do all the work, even if it as an interactive app. Talk to your child and discuss the book in ways that also incorporates your real life. This discussion-based reading will help to enhance your child’s linguistic skills, no matter the platform of the text.