We cannot escape technology these days. Screens are everywhere–on our mobile phones, computers, tablets, watches, billboards, televisions–sometimes even lodged into the back of our car’s headrest. And young children are the most susceptible to these electrical lures–they are bright, shiny, colorful, and make sounds–who wouldn’t want to get their hands on these screens. But what about e-books? Are they offering our children something more than regular print books because of their inherent technology? Are e-books just better?
There have been many studies about e-books and the effect technology has on a young child over the past decade and while e-books offer the advantages of accessibility, convenience, and endless playability for young readers, they also hinder children in numerous ways. According to the Hanen Center, studies have shown that when sharing an e-book with their child, parents are not as likely to talk about the story or discuss issues beyond the book. Instead, they are more likely to talk about the buttons or functionality of the e-book reader. And this is sadly a missed opportunity.
Taking the time to sit and read with a child is a wonderful thing. It not only offers bonding time, but it is also an opportunity to help them with language development and learning about their world. And having the parent present to point out images in the pictures, to discuss the characters’ actions, and to relate their own or the child’s experiences beyond the story are instrumental.
A recent study showed that children learned less about the story from an e-book. While children learned some story information from an e-book, they tended to know more details from the story and the order of the story’s events from paper books. In addition, some researchers have found that the interactive features of e-books may be distracting and taking children’s focus away from the story.
This is not to say e-books are evil. But they work best when the parent is present and actively engaged in the story with the child. So the next time you find yourself handing over a screen to your child, maybe think twice. A paper book may just be the better option.