Apps, Babies, & the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

This past Wednesday, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood--an organization best-known for "taking down" Baby Einstein videos a few years ago--urged the FEC to look into the marketing of apps for babies. The CCFC is both looking particularly at apps by Fisher-Price and Open Solutions, and more generally arguing that apps have no educational merit whatsoever when it comes to young children. There's been heavy media coverage (Mashable, NYT, Slate, HuffPo, etc). At School Library Journal, Rachel G. Payne, coordinator of early childhood services at Brooklyn Public Library, offers her take in Are Learning Apps Good for Babies? At Little eLit, I offer mine in Apps & Babies: Keeping Our Heads (and our iPads).

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But what about some research?

I confess to bring easily swayed to the no screens for babies camp. I found all these articles interesting. What I didn't find was research. My reading on ereading vs print reading has made me a bit concerned with assuming all time spent reading is doing the same thing in the brain. That is not a value judgement, it is a recognition that we make a lot of assumptions about outcomes that perhaps we should not. What does interacting with a screen do within the brain? How does it change the brain and the structures of learning from what we're used to? How will those changes affect later learning? This isn't a black and white apps are good / apps are bad decision. But neither can it be dismissed with a "it's all in the parent-child interaction" response. Being able to read changes the way our brains work. Using screens changes the way our brains work. We need more research about what is happening from a psychological and social perspective, and think about the result we want, before we break ourselves into camps.

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