Can an e-book or a story on a tablet substitute for a traditional book when it comes to introducing young children to language and reading? There’s extensive research on the benefits of reading to children from physical books. Now, researchers are trying to understand what screen time means for youngsters, even if the screen offers some form of reading. Tech Tuesday explores the debate over story time versus screen time for young children.


  • Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek Professor of Psychology and Director of the Temple Infant and Child Laboratory at Temple University; Author of “Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn--And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less"
  • Claire Lerner Director of Strategic Initiatives at Zero to Three; She is also a practicing clinician, who works with families and young children; Author of “Learning and Growing Together: Understanding and Supporting Your Child’s Development”
  • Lisa Guernsey Director of the Early Learning Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project at New America ; Author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child"


  • 12:06:39

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world on Tech Tuesday. There's no question about the benefits of reading books to young children. Telling the story, discussing the characters and imagining different outcomes helps toddlers develop language skills of their own. But put the book onto an e-reader or tablet or other electronic device and the benefits are less clear.

  • 12:07:17

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAre parents and young children spending more time fussing with the device than absorbing the story? Is interactive software a bonus or a distraction? Researchers and clinicians who work with young children are racing to answer these questions as technology advances at light speed and parents face a barrage of apps and digital games that purport to be educational. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of two.

  • 12:07:46

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd limited screen time thereafter. But today's kids live in a world where screens are hard to avoid at any age. On today's Tech Tuesday, research on the way kids learn and what it tells us about screen time and educational apps. And joining us to have this conversation is Lisa Guernsey, Director of the Early Learning Initiative and the Learning Technology's Project at New America. Lisa's the author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media from Baby Videos to Educational Software Affects Your Young Child." She joins us in studio. Lisa, good to see you again.

  • 12:08:17

    MS. LISA GUERNSEYHey there, Kojo, happy to be here.

  • 12:08:19

    NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is Claire Lerner, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Zero to Three, which focuses on nurturing early development. She's also a practicing clinician who works with families and young children. She is the author of "Learning and Growing Together: Understanding and Supporting Your Child's Development." Claire Lerner, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:39

    MS. CLAIRE LERNERIt's a pleasure to be here, Kojo.

  • 12:08:41

    NNAMDIYou too can join the conversation. Just give us a call at 800-433-8850. You can shoot us an email to How do you apportion story time and screen time in your house, 800-433-8850? You can also go to our website, Ask a question or make a comment there. Lisa, let's start with the ideological debate. You have said sometimes you make an artificial distinction between print and screen media for young children, when in fact, the lines are blurred.

  • 12:09:14

    GUERNSEYIt's a complicated picture out there, that's for sure.

  • 12:09:19


  • 12:09:19

    GUERNSEYI mean, absolutely. We're seeing people, kind of take sides in what we've at New America described as...

  • 12:09:26

    NNAMDIWe love taking sides.

  • 12:09:27

    GUERNSEY...exactly. As, you know, not such an easy place to take sides in. There are those who just are, you know, full on enthusiasts for e-books. And all the interactive features of e-books, all the things that e-books can do that the print book cannot do. And then there are those who are absolutely almost religious about print and only print, and I'm not going to let my children touch anything that's electronic until a certain age. So, it gets a little heated. There have been some big debates on this even through the past couple of months.

  • 12:09:59

    NNAMDIYou use what you call the three Cs to guide decisions about screen time for kids. Please explain.

  • 12:10:05

    GUERNSEYThat's right. After years of research, trying to answer these questions for myself as a parent, and also as a journalist, I found that what the studies out there show us, really, is that we have to be thinking about the content, the context, the way we're using media with children and the third c -- the child. The individual child and how that child is coming to that media experience. And those three Cs can help us make better decisions about the kind of media we use with kids.

  • 12:10:37

    NNAMDIClaire, some research shows that the more children interact with whatever's on the screen by thinking and moving, the more they learn. What does that mean in terms of choosing apps, choosing games for young kids?

  • 12:10:49

    LERNERWell, I think it's not that different than what we would advise parents to do about more traditional toys, which is that you want to pick apps or any tool you're going to provide your child to learn, by thinking about what is going to help them use their mind and body most? So, just like we looked at traditional toys, the ones that have lots of bells and whistles, but are one dimensional, where it only requires a child to maybe push a button for lots of things to happen is more entertaining than, you know, the typical shapes order, which most parents today, you know, look like an antique.

  • 12:11:25

    LERNERBut, in fact, is a much better tool for learning because of the kind of problem solving a child has to do. Cause and effect, you know, figuring out where does each shape fit in each hole? How do you fill and dump? There's so many concepts of child learning with what looks like a very, very simplistic toy. And so I think the same is true as we look at technology, that when parents are figuring out what app to buy, what book to read, you really want to be thinking about what skills is my child going to have to bring to bear?

  • 12:11:58

    LERNERHow are they going to have to use their mind and their body to make this tool work? And the more they're going to have to use, the more they're going to learn.

  • 12:12:05

    NNAMDI800-433-8850, what is your favorite educational app or digital game for young children? What features do you look for in an educational app or electronic game for your toddler, 800-433-8850? You can shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or email to Talk about the role parents should play in reading an e-book or sharing screen time with youngsters. How much does the parents' discussion and use of language affect how much the child learns? Starting with you, Claire.

  • 12:12:36

    LERNERWell, it's tremendous. The parent has a huge impact on what their child learns. So, for example, if you think about a parent taking a child on a walk. And the parent doesn't say anything and the child looks around, and they're going to take in some information. But if the parent engages the child in a rich discussion about what they're seeing, feeling the leaves, looking at the houses, what's big and small, what are the different colors? That's going to be a much richer learning experience for that child than just sitting in the stroller without interaction.

  • 12:13:12

    LERNERAnd the same is true for all of these technological tools, and even books. If you hand a child a book, they're going to flip the pages and they'll look at pictures, but imagine a parent sitting next to them and asking questions and pointing to the different objects and then expanding what they're getting from the book to their real world. They see a giraffe in the book, and then they go to the zoo and they talk about the giraffe in real life. And so that's what parents need to be doing with these technological tools is scaffolding.

  • 12:13:41

    LERNERIs engaging with the child, talking about what they're seeing, and then helping the child take what they're learning and actually apply it to the real world. Because that's true learning. Not just memorizing numbers or colors or animals, but how do you use that information and apply it to the real world?

  • 12:13:58


  • 12:13:59

    GUERNSEYYes. And I think there's a difference, too, as children grow up through the years. And so the conversation that parents can have with children around books, picture books in those earlier is so fundamental. The research is incredibly strong on those kinds of conversations that Claire has just talked about. As kids get older and they're moving into those late pre-school years, kindergarten, first grade, then you're in a place where you want to make sure that that rich language is there, but you also want to ensure that children are starting to learn to decode, to be able to kind of put those letters and sounds together and understand and recognize words on a page.

  • 12:14:39

    GUERNSEYAnd that's where I think this conversation about e-books and different kinds of technology gets really interesting, but also really complicated. Because there are some tools that can be used in e-books that may do a better job of enabling children to learn to decode than certain circumstances, even in their classroom.

  • 12:15:01

    NNAMDILet's talk about e-books, because I think that's what Ben in Berryville, Va. wants to continue talking about. Ben, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:15:09

    BENOh, well, thank you. You know, I think an e-book has a tremendous advantage in that you can -- a parent can have all 100 or 200 books that the kid's supposed to read all the way from, you know, age two to age, to college, and they can all be on one device. And that's great, but it also assumes that there's reliable internet access where they are. We don't have a national broadband internet plan and it assumes that the parents are wealthy enough to keep the power on all the time so the device can stay charged. I mean, there's a lot of assumptions, I think with e-books, that I don't think match up with the reality of the real world.

  • 12:15:48


  • 12:15:48

    GUERNSEYAbsolutely true. And there are a lot of assumptions that are made about print that don't always match up with the real world too. I mean, and this is why it...

  • 12:15:57

    NNAMDIAssumption that we can all buy books.

  • 12:16:00

    GUERNSEYYes. I mean, it's really astonishing and distressing to look at statistics of children in very low income or more disadvantaged circumstances and that in the few books that they may even have in their home or have access to. Where policies can make a difference in this direction is in using and tapping the assets in our public libraries in much better ways. And, I think, in thinking about broadband access in a much more equitable way, as well.

  • 12:16:31

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Claire, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors tell parents to read to their children from birth. But it also recommends no screen time for children under age two. And no more than two hours a day for older children, regardless of the quality. What are your thoughts on quantity?

  • 12:16:50

    LERNERWell, the quantity issue is very important, because the fact is that very young children, which is certainly what Zero to Three focuses very specifically on. Young children are not awake for more than sometimes 10 to 12 hours a day. And so, there is a robust body of research that definitively shows that parent/child interaction, exploration in the real world, is critical for healthy development. That's been determined. And so, that leads us to the conclusion that if parents are using technology with their young children, it should be limited.

  • 12:17:27

    LERNERBecause you don't want it to replace those real world, you know, 3D interactions, which we know are so critical. You know, we have a very strong relationship with the academy. The academy is concerned about the infancy of the research and is really -- believes that they need to wait until there's a more robust body of research for them to reconsider.

  • 12:17:53


  • 12:17:53

    GUERNSEYThe other thing to understand about the AAP's recommendation is that it's, again, based on research about social interaction and how important that is. It's also based on, primarily, on research around TV. And it is using data that often lumped all TV programming together into one bucket. And did not differentiate by content. And a lot of those studies, yes, have some troubling findings. When we start looking more closely at content and context, that interaction that we have, that's when things get fuzzy.

  • 12:18:28

    GUERNSEYEspecially in the 21st century, where parents may be showing a video of grandma dancing the, you know, the Macarena. And talking with their 18-month-old about how silly that is or what fun that could be. Or when they want to have a moment to remember the lyrics from a song or remember a nursery rhyme and then engage around that media with their children.

  • 12:18:54

    NNAMDIOn to, since you mentioned 3D, I'll have David in Sandy Spring, Md. up next. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:19:03

    DAVIDGood morning. I'm concerned that the screen world is basically two dimensional. And that children live in a three dimensional world. And can manipulate, interact with and otherwise. Even with a book. And that's all I've got to say. It does concern me.

  • 12:19:32

    NNAMDICare to start, Lisa, and then you, Claire?

  • 12:19:33

    GUERNSEYYeah, absolutely. I mean the 3D world, by -- yeah, absolutely. Kids need to be living in that 3D world and have as many of those kinds of hands interactions as possible. Where we need to, as a society -- what we need to figure out really is what's going to be the right kind of balance for children in different circumstances, different times of their day with different needs. Again, those three C's.

  • 12:20:01

    GUERNSEYAnd there are moments when a child may learn something from two-dimensional page, print or screen, that they may not be able to learn from at that very moment in a 3D way. Seeing an elephant walking through the safari may not be something that all children can do in a 3D way.

  • 12:20:21


  • 12:20:22

    LERNERYeah, well, I think that that's where the parent comes in. Well, I think, of course, that's where limiting time on screens comes in. But when parents are choosing to use screens with their young children, the critical piece is really the activation. All the research shows that even when kids are using technology, the more they are engaged, whether it's jumping up and down and imitating what's, you know, happening on the TV or having to push a button in order to make something appear on a screen, automatically leads to greater learning and more engagement and application to the 3D world.

  • 12:20:58

    NNAMDIAre there times of day when screen time should be avoided for young children, like right before bed?

  • 12:21:03

    LERNERYes, definitely. There is a lot of research that does make a strong association between two things. One is children having screens in bedrooms. So the research is on TVs, but I think that we can extrapolate that, any kind of digital experience -- which are usually highly stimulating -- should not be in the bedroom as much as possible. And that screen time should be limited to, you know, not happen right before bedtime.

  • 12:21:29


  • 12:21:29

    NNAMDIGo ahead, please, Lisa.

  • 12:21:30

    GUERNSEYIf I could just note, the other thing that is often missing in these conversations is the difference between foreground TV or foreground screen time and background TV or background screen time. And yet we have some really good research showing how detrimental it can be for children to be in rooms where there's just a TV or some sort of screen running all the time. It is -- it disrupts their play patterns and their interactions with the adults around them.

  • 12:21:57

    NNAMDIHere now is Clara, in Baltimore, Md. Clara, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:22:02

    CLARAHi. So I've been a nanny for many years. And I was just -- I've had multiple different, you know, types of families with similarly aged children where maybe one family, you know, we always watch Baby Einstein videos all the time. I need to go through all of these different flashcards with pictures and words on them. (unintelligible), a books a day, you know, with a kid who isn't even like talking yet. And then, you know, other families will have -- and we'll just kind of, you know, "Sesame Street" for a couple hours.

  • 12:22:30

    CLARAAnd then they'll want their kids to also be able to individually engage themselves, but I'll just kind of guide, like, in the background (unintelligible) so constantly keeping permanent engagement with the same age child. And I was wondering, you know, as far as that goes, what kind of research is out there because I can't really notice any significant developmental differences. Maybe the first family will read a year or two earlier, but both seem to be catching on to the same things, doing problem solving similar ways. So just wondering what is going on exactly with that?

  • 12:23:01


  • 12:23:01

    LERNERWell, I think what you're raising is the fact that there are so many variables that contribute to any individual child's development. So it's hard to make kind of a causal link. What we do know from research is that content really matters, as Lisa has, you know, expressed. And the content that the researchers are finding is most educational and leads to the greatest learning are -- at least for young children -- content that really reflects their real world, where their concepts are ones that they're living or experiencing every day.

  • 12:23:37

    LERNERSo that real learning, like memorizing numbers or colors, is not particularly useful because it doesn't have a context in their real world. So it's much valuable, by and large, to be watching programming where children can take what they're learning and actually apply it with the help of the adults in their lives, to the real world.

  • 12:23:57

    NNAMDII'm glad you brought that up because, Lisa, you've said that people often think in terms of a false dichotomy. That reading to your child is interactive and handing your child a phone or a tablet is not. How do we need to rethink the role of technology for young children?

  • 12:24:13

    GUERNSEYI think it comes down to looking at our behaviors as adults. And starting to just tune into what we're doing around these devices or around the paper that we are using with young children as well. So that we put the focus on the interactions that we're having with children instead of the device itself or the book itself. And that can help us kind of change the lens through which we have these debates, I think.

  • 12:24:43

    NNAMDIOkay. Here's Jamil (sp?) , in Alexandria, Va. Jamil, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:24:48

    JAMILHi. If I can share my own experience that would be -- I have an iPad and I -- before I wanted to read a particular thing, especially the eBooks, before I do that -- so I came -- I come across with the updates. There was a game that I tried to make and then there's my bank account. And there's the -- so many other things that -- I see them, so -- before even I get to the point that I start reading. So I see so many other things that attracts me.

  • 12:25:18

    JAMILSo if I compared this experience with children -- so children, before even they focus on whatever they read or whatever they -- for any reason they use it. So there -- they get distracted. So if that is right -- if what I think is right for children, too, so why there isn't any limitations in the schools for using the technology -- at least in the schools?

  • 12:25:45

    NNAMDIWell, we haven't gotten to the point of schools as yet, but I don't know. Lisa?

  • 12:25:48

    GUERNSEYThis is interesting because last night I was having a conversation with my 10-year-old about this. You know, I've watched her use -- consuming all sorts of different kind of media over the years. And she was adamant. She said, "Mom, I want a print book. I want you to sit with me and read this book. And she pulled out one of her very favorite picture books from years ago.

  • 12:26:08

    GUERNSEYAnd she was, you know, quite persuasive actually about how much she gets distracted by the iPad, how much -- she said, "Mom, that's where I want to play games. And all I want to do is play games. But when I have the print book, then I want to read with you." And it was to me a reminder of that distraction, that quality of our e-media and how much it can lead us in different directions. We have to be so aware of that.

  • 12:26:33

    NNAMDIYeah, but there's also this, the earlier caller talked about the affordability of it all. For families that cannot afford to buy books or don't have access to a library, but do have smartphones, electronic readers offer free books that they can download from public libraries. What do we know about the benefits of e-books and other educational games in those circumstances?

  • 12:26:53

    LERNERSo exactly. That's a very important point because there is a library of e-books that can be downloaded for free onto smartphones to allow parents to have easy access to books wherever they go with their children. So if they're in the grocery store or waiting for the doctor, they can open up a book and engage with it. The key, again, is how the parent uses it with the child.

  • 12:27:17

    LERNERBecause the New York Times article, that kind of, you know, propelled this discussion, showed that when parents focus too much on the bells and whistles and all the things popping up and all the buttons you can push, it diminished the child's ability to understand the story, which is the critical variable in every book, is that children are trying to figure out how to understand symbols and stories and beginnings and middles and ends.

  • 12:27:44

    LERNERSo what's really important is that when parents use it they stay focused on the story and they don't get distracted by guiding their children to all the things that are kind of fun, but actually can reduce the educational benefit of the reading experience.

  • 12:28:02

    NNAMDIIt's a Tech Tuesday conversation on story time versus educational screen time. If you have questions or comments, call us at 800-433-8850. What questions do you have about how to choose educational software for your young children, 800-433-8850? You can send email to or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. We're going to take a short break, during which we'll be talking about our fall membership campaign, but when we come back from that we will continue this conversation. So if you have called stay on the line. If you haven't yet, now is the time to call. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:37:20

    NNAMDIWe continue our Tech Tuesday conversation on story time versus educational screen time. We're talking with Claire Lerner, director of Strategic Initiatives at Zero to Three, which focuses on nurturing early development. She's also a practicing clinician, who works with families and young children. She's author of "Learning and Growing Together: Understanding and Supporting Your Child's Development."

  • 12:37:41

    NNAMDIThe organization also has put out something called "Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight, Research-Based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children under Three Years Old." That's something, I'm presuming, Claire, that every parent can use to figure out how to make these decisions.

  • 12:37:56

    LERNERYes. It's something we developed with a commitment to actually helping parents understand what the research actually says, not based on ideology, but based on science and what that means in terms of what they should be doing with their children.

  • 12:38:12

    NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Learning Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project at New America. She is author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media -- From Baby Videos to Educational Software -- Affects Your Young Child."

  • 12:38:27

    NNAMDIAnd joining us now, by phone, is Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, professor of psychology and director of the Infant and Child Laboratory at Temple University. She is author of "Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn -- And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less." She joins us by phone from Temple University in Philadelphia. Kathy, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:38:49

    MS. KATHRYN HIRSH-PASEKSure, it's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

  • 12:38:50

    NNAMDIOf course, we're still inviting you to join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850 or sending email to Kathy, you were in Washington last week…

  • 12:39:02


  • 12:39:02

    NNAMDI…to attend a White House conference on the so-called word gap. By the time they turn three, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than children from more affluent homes. But you presented new findings that it's quality, not quantity that matters more. Explain your research and how it relates to this books versus screen time debate.

  • 12:39:26

    HIRSH-PASEKWell, I think it does relate to the book and screen time debate, but we actually have direct evidence on the book and screen time debate, too. So briefly, what I talked about is that we tend to think of the metaphor of filling the gap. If low-income kids have many fewer words coming across their ears than middle-income children than what we should do is just assume that their heads are like empty vessels and we should pop in more words and all of a sudden the problem will be solved. And it's just not that easy because words are born from conversations that we have with the adults around us. And we learn even how to attend and how to have a back-and forth. And it sets the whole foundation for learning.

  • 12:40:09

    HIRSH-PASEKSo we actually studied that with 60 low-income children, 20 of whom were very successful in their language learning and 20 of whom were struggling and 20 of whom were middling, when they were three years of age. Then we went backwards in time and we looked at the parent-child interactions that they had as they were playing with a book and two toys. And when we went through this exercise with folks who had no idea how they were going to turn out at age three, we were indeed able to predict whether they were going to fall in the high, the medium or the low group, by the kinds of interactions that they had with their parents, the quality of those interactions, rather than just with the amount of those interactions.

  • 12:40:58

    NNAMDILisa Guernsey, were you at that conference also?

  • 12:40:59

    GUERNSEYI was. I was. It was a really -- it was an interesting discussion. And there was a whole panel on technology and what it meant in this larger agenda to help children from more disadvantaged circumstances have those kinds of conversations in their lives. One thing that we presented on that I just wanted to let listeners know about, is that we have started a project at New America in partnership with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which is a research arm of Sesame Workshop in New York. And now, online at Seeding Reading, like planting the seed of reading in the digital age.

  • 12:41:36

    GUERNSEYWe have been collecting stories and articles about new research on where technology can help and where it hurts and how to start making some better distinctions.

  • 12:41:46

    NNAMDIClaire, were you at the conference also?

  • 12:41:48

    LERNERI was at the conference. And I think another sort of aha for people at the conference was that we really need to broaden the way we think about supporting families of young children and really helping to educate parents about what helps children thrive. And this -- what Kathy's talking about, about the richness of the back-and-forth and direction -- even before children have words, when they're communicating by pointing and using gestures and giving children time to respond when you talk with them -- that you're having conversations from day one. And I think that speaks to sort of our country doing a better job of really helping parents understand how important these interactions are and that they start at birth.

  • 12:42:31

    NNAMDIKathy, before I go back to the phones, another part of the equation is how adults' screen time affects children. You have studied the effects of interrupting a conversation with your child to talk or text on your mobile phone. What did you find?

  • 12:42:45

    HIRSH-PASEKWell, this is pretty preliminary research. But we're very excited about it. Everywhere I go I see parents on mobile phones and the kid sort of hanging at the end of their hand, but not really in conversation with parents. And many of us almost feel -- I know I do -- addicted to finding out what the next text is or the last email was. So we actually performed a study with Jessa Reed, who was a grad student on that study. And she's been looking at whether children learn as much from a situation where they're interrupted as opposed to when they're not interrupted.

  • 12:43:22

    HIRSH-PASEKSo we taught the child two words -- or the mother taught the child two words, children were two years of age, two and two-and-a-half, and either the mom got a phone call interruption or didn't. And we looked to see whether the child still learned the words. And it turned out, as you probably would guess, that they learn a lot better when they aren't -- when the mom's not interrupted, when the mom is interrupted. (sic)

  • 12:43:47

    HIRSH-PASEKAnd it's interesting. There was a study that just came out in the Journal of Pediatrics, which looked at how many parents are spending times, like in McDonald's, on their cellphones and not really having conversations with children, or what I call conversational duets, this back-and-forth, looking at a hamburger and talking about it. And it turned out that most of the parents were actually on their phones at some point in the conversation, and not looking at the children and singing those conversational duets.

  • 12:44:18

    NNAMDIBut doesn't that also apply if the phone rings at home while you're talking to your child?

  • 12:44:22

    HIRSH-PASEKWell, you know, it's interesting. We weren't as interrupted when the phone was ringing at home. We're actually studying that part now. When somebody comes in the door, is it the same thing? But you moderated it better. It seems that now we're constantly looking down at the text messages as they come in. And in one striking case -- anecdotal, not research -- I actually saw a mother who dropped her child's hand in the middle of the street and walked on as she was looking at her text message.

  • 12:44:50

    NNAMDIAnd we got an email from Karalee, who writes, "I live near Sligo Creek Trail. I see many parents and nannies out with children. Sad to say, at least 70 percent are talking on a cellphone the entire time. I'm not concerned about short calls. I see them talking over a period of the 40 minutes I'm walking the trail. I often pass the same people two or three times. I'm around them long enough to hear that the calls are not short. The father's, too, are often, quote, unquote, 'in a meeting.' As a clinical psychologist, I can tell you that I often think about the long-term effects. It's so sad to see a toddler waving a leaf, saying, 'look,' while the adult is talking to someone else. It is so detrimental and heartbreaking." Claire.

  • 12:45:25

    LERNERYeah. You know, this is something that I think we're all struggling with as adults. And it's sort of managing our own emotions and having some of our own self regulation as parents. I think that's what we're really trying to do in this, you know, in the early childhood community, is to raise parents' awareness about limiting and also -- once they understand the impact on their children, there tends to be more motivation to, you know, to do more of that self regulation.

  • 12:45:53

    LERNERI think that, you know, another thing to add to what Kathy was saying about that study out of Boston about parents' usage of phones during, you know, at fast-food restaurants is, what they also found from that research was that more acting-out behaviors on the part of the children in order to get the parents' attention. And I think that's another sort of important finding and aha for parents to kind of tune into what this experience is like for their young children.

  • 12:46:21

    NNAMDILisa, the interruptions.

  • 12:46:23

    GUERNSEYYeah, it -- to me, it reminds me of that background television research that I described earlier. It seems to fall into the same bucket. And it points to the need to really be mindful about how we're using the devices and the technology around us, instead of, you know, checking out. So again, adult behaviors here really matter to children's learning and their potential. And so, as adults, we really need to kind of check ourselves.

  • 12:46:50

    NNAMDIOn to Janice, in Westminster, Md., Janice, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:46:56

    JANICEHi. It seems like we've gone away a little bit from what -- the comment that I wanted to make. But I did want to reaffirm, it is important to look at every individual child. For mine, particularly, reading was valuable even at an early age. But as an autistic-spectrum child, and I didn't know it, he found a way navigating a social world through things like "Thomas the Tank Engine," where a simple story, recognizable facial expressions that were limited -- not so various as the human face. So for him, that method was so valuable to find his way into the social world. It was easier for him to grasp than my reading of a book.

  • 12:47:42

    JANICEFor example, if I would read it and maybe his sister would read it later, he would correct his sister to make her read it the way I read it.

  • 12:47:49


  • 12:47:50

    JANICEOr he would have this stress otherwise. So I think sometimes all of those ways in are valuable.

  • 12:47:58

    NNAMDIGlad you brought that up because, Kathy, you have said that there's huge potential for change in the way digital tools help young children learn. What are some examples of eBooks or games that tap the best of technology's educational ability?

  • 12:48:13

    HIRSH-PASEKWell, I think we're only at what I call wave one in the design of some of these screen-based technologies. And I can't wait to see the future. But right now, what we've done is we've taken sort of traditional books and we've plopped them on to a digital screen. And then we make them more digital by putting games right in the middle of the book. And that's quite distracting. It ruins the arc of the narrative as the child's going along. So the very first thing that I hope we do in a wave two, is to put the games at the end of the story, not smack in the middle of the story.

  • 12:48:49

    HIRSH-PASEKBecause in the research that we've done with screens and reading on screens versus reading traditional books, we find that parents have to change their behavior from what we call dialogic reading or having these conversations about the book, "Oh, that's Curious George. Remember when we saw the monkey at the zoo?" And instead, kids are so busy pressing buttons, that our interactions become more behaviorally driven. "Stop pushing. Turn the page. No, look at this." Because the kid's just pressing the buttons to press the buttons. And our research suggests that they no longer see the story or understand the story.

  • 12:49:27

    HIRSH-PASEKSo I think that, in wave two, we not only move the games beyond, but I'd love to see new storybooks where the kid may have to solve a problem as you're going through the story. And they do something on the digital screen that actually moves the storyline forward itself. I think it could be very exciting. We're only at the beginning.

  • 12:49:49

    NNAMDIOkay. On to the telephones again. And I think this one is for all of you research (sic) . Here's Sherry in Alexandria, Va. Sherry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:49:58

    SHERRYHello, everyone. I have a daughter who is six years old and suffers from ADHD. And I have gotten mixed responses from experts regarding what technology could do for her. Personally, when she's using an eBook or an iPad or any -- any, even a phone, she responds much better to it. In school, she gets a lot of assistance with learning anything. She has a psychologist who works with her almost 19 hours a week. And that is the only way that she's able to keep up with her class work. Although, with that assistance, she does really well. However, at home, I feel that just me, by myself, I'm not able to keep up with that.

  • 12:50:38

    SHERRYAnd I feel that I need to kind of substitute my lack of knowledge of what she suffers from by putting in eBooks or by using technology, which in my experience helps her learn much better. And I just wanted to know what you guys think, you know, if it's a detriment...

  • 12:50:55

    NNAMDII'll go around the table on that one, starting with you, Lisa Guernsey.

  • 12:50:59

    GUERNSEYThere is something that, you know, people with expertise in ADHD and different kinds of -- or even development delays would have even more to offer you. What I might suggest is a service called BridgingApps. And it's both an email newsletter and there's a website. And it's all about how different technologies are used with children who have special needs of some kind or may have autism, ADHD, a number of different issues like that, to help guide parents to resources that can help them.

  • 12:51:33


  • 12:51:34

    LERNERWell, I think you're also raising a really important issue, which is sort of the individual differences in children and that they're not a monolithic group and they're going to respond to technology in very different ways. And so I think one of your greatest assets is your observations of your child. And you see what she's getting from the school experience. And I think if you take a step back and watch how she interacts with these tools at home.

  • 12:51:59

    LERNERAnd then find a way in to kind of join her in that process so you can see what she's learning and how she's learning and how you might, again, sort of make it a more social, interactive experience to deter the challenge, of course, which is that kids are using this all day long and it really limits the interaction you can have with her.

  • 12:52:21

    NNAMDIKathy, we're running out of time very rapidly. But I'd like to know what questions are you asking in your research now? You're looking at the role of interactivity and technology and how it helps kids learn. You have about 40 seconds.

  • 12:52:33

    HIRSH-PASEKAll right. In 40 seconds, I'll just tell you that we're trying to figure out what it really means to be social like a person. And what would you need to add into those tablets so it really was responsive and adaptive, not just interactive.

  • 12:52:47

    NNAMDIKathy Hirsh-Pasek is professor of psychology and director of the Infant and Child Laboratory at Temple University. She's the author of "Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn -- And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less." Claire Lerner is director of strategic initiatives at Zero to Three, which focuses on nurturing early childhood development. She's also a practicing clinician who works with families and young children. She is author of "Learning and Growing Together: Understanding and Supporting Your Child's Development."

  • 12:53:15

    NNAMDIAnd Lisa Guernsey is director of the Early Learning Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project at New America. She is author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media -- From Baby Videos to Educational Software -- Affects Your Young Child." Thank you all for joining us. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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