You walk down the street, sit on a train, get on a plane, sit in a restaurant, out shopping, whatever you do these days, you will no doubt see a young child with some form of tablet or electronic device. Electronics have taken over our world, and the take over is only to continue. The next generation of parents will remember climbing trees, building dens, making perfumes out of water and flowers and playing a good old game of knock down ginger. The walkman was the most exciting electronic out there, soon to be followed by MP3 players. Computer time was MSN after school to talk to your friends for 1 hour, and the extent of social media was Bebo and MySpace. Compare that to now, kids contend with social pressures to have the latest iPhone before even reaching high school, tablets are a must have, things like snapchat, Facebook and Instagram are standard practice, and school work is fairly paperless. The power of the ever evolving electronic and paperless world is incredible, and creates a lot of ease for 21st Century living. But is this evolution bad news for our books?
With things like kindle, iBooks, Google books, Amazon and all other kinds of platforms providing electronic versions of books, it looks that picking up an actual paper book is out of fashion. There is something to be said for having the ability to carry countless books on one lightweight device. But that doesn’t have to mean bad news for books! Especially not for our children.
There’s much debate against using tablets to read from, and especially for children in such a crucial stage of development. The first issue was blue light, effecting sleep patterns, not just for children but adults to! So out came kindle with their paper white versions and out came all manner of apps to reduce blue light on our electronics. Then there was the debate about the effects of electronics on eye development and eye health. Are our eyes really more strained by reading from a tablet than a book? We’ve all heard the good old parent statement “too much TV will make your eyes go square” but many studies have actually found there to be no difference in eye strain from book to tablet. So it all seems go for tablets!
But look at it from a different angle. As we have spoken about countless times, children learn through interactive and imaginative play. And tablets do not always provide them with this. Particularly not the outdoor and physical aspect. Screen time tends to take away crucial interaction with peers and others around them.
We’ve all witnessed the group of people sat at a table in a coffee shop, in full silence, all preoccupied by their phones. So this issue isn’t just isolated to children. We can become so involved in our electronics that we forget how to truly interact with others. The beauty of technology allows us to interact with people anywhere, at anytime, all of the time. But, that seems to have taken away from face to face contact. And it is this face to face contact and interaction that is highly beneficial for the development of children.
Reading provides more interaction and play than reading from tablets, and although there are some pretty good apps out there, nothing quite compares to sitting down with your little one and turning the pages of a good bed time story book! Reading from a book encourages reading aloud, and reading with others, as well as carrying on the story once the book has been put down, that long lost thing known as conversation! Encouraging your child to discuss the book is crucial, they will be able to increase vocabulary by telling you how the page felt, what sound the page makes as it turns, what graphics there were, what colours, textures and even sounds and smells – that’s something a tablet just cant provide to the same extent. Its been said, your child is more likely to ask you for a bedtime story if there are books around!
Its not to say your child shouldn’t be using a tablet, as there are some very pro learning and development apps that certainly have a positive effect on your little one. However, it is extremely difficult to monitor what your child is being exposed to when using electronics, especially as they get older and start to feel the effects of social pressures. Some content can be harmful to the development of our children, and the issue is how easily and quickly some of this content can be accessed. It’s far easier to monitor what books your children have access to!
To conclude, there is no right or wrong answer to the book or tablet debate. But, a healthy mix is recommend. There are pros and cons to tablets, and monitored screen time can be highly beneficial. But, nothing can quite compare to turning the pages of an actual book. And no tablet will be able to provide the same sensory benefits that books can. Feeling the building excitement as you read with your little ones, and turn the pages in anticipation for the next chapter. Keep books alive in the mind of your child, and encourage interaction and imagination, whilst appreciating the good parts of our ever evolving technological lives.