Earlier this month, Dr. Michael Rich, Director of CMCH, was quoted in an article titled "Why an iPhone Could Actually Be Good for your 3-year-old." Writer Neil Swidey explores what benefits may come from letting preschoolers play with iPhones and the apps that are being made specifically for their age group.
Last week, the Elliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at nearby Tufts University organized a brown bag lunch for faculty, grad students, and others to come discuss the article. One of the goals of the session was to come up with potential questions and topics for further exploration by the research community. Here is a summary of the panelists' ideas from what turned out to be a very lively discussion:
Professor Richard Lerner wondered if we are destroying the integrity of the established developmental sequence by always trying to "hurry-up" childhood learning.
Professor Marina Bers was very interested in how apps could be designed specifically to optimize children's learning instead of trying to evaluate whether what's currently offered is beneficial.
Professor Ann Easterbrooks thinks that we need to find out if kids are able to receive the things they need to thrive through the use of smartphones.
Writer Neil Swidey pondered the "video deficit" (it takes kids a lot longer to learn something from a video than for them to learn something from a person). He wonders if smartphones are an "in-between" way of delivering instruction that would decrease the amount of time it takes to learn from a video because smartphones allow for interaction.
So graduate students — if you don't have a dissertation topic yet and the deadline is approaching, you might consider some of these questions. We need you and other researchers to generate answers so that society can continue to use technology in ways that optimize children's learning and development.
For those who attended, we encourage you to check out our free resources at www.cmch.tv/interact for ways to keep up with news and research on media and child health.