- mobile device
- mobile phone
- tablet computers
- parent-child interaction
- early childhood development
- early literacy
- child behavior
The use of interactive screen media such as smartphones and tablets by young children is increasing rapidly. However, research regarding the impact of this portable and instantly accessible source of screen time on learning, behavior, and family dynamics has lagged considerably behind its rate of adoption. Pediatric guidelines specifically regarding mobile device use by young children have not yet been formulated, other than recent suggestions that a limited amount of educational interactive media use may be acceptable for children aged <2 years.1 New guidance is needed because mobile media differs from television in its multiple modalities (eg, videos, games, educational apps), interactive capabilities, and near ubiquity in children’s lives. Recommendations for use by infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children are especially crucial, because effects of screen time are potentially more pronounced in this group. The aim of this commentary is to review the existing literature, discuss future research directions, and suggest preliminary guidance for families.
Early Childhood Interactive Media Use: Evidence and Theory
Although well-researched television programs such as Sesame Street or Blue’s Clues can promote early academic skills in preschool-aged children, children <30 months cannot learn from television and videos as they do from real-life interactions.2 Interactive media, on the other hand, allow for contingent responses to children’s actions and thus may facilitate more retention of taught material. For example, socially contingent media (ie, with appropriate content, timing, and intensity) such as videophone apps are just as effective as real-life encounters in teaching language to 24 month olds,3 but otherwise, published research on whether infants and toddlers can learn from interactive screens is scant.
Promising research suggests that interactive media such as learn-to-read apps and electronic books (e-books) may increase early literacy …
Address correspondence to Jenny S. Radesky, Boston Medical Center, Vose 4, 88 E Newton St, Boston, MA 02118. E-mail: