I recently read an article entitled “How to Make Your Baby Smarter.” Let me be clear: I have no agenda to make my baby smarter. I stumbled upon the article because I was searching for AAP recommendations on the limits of screen time for children.
I finished the article just seconds before throwing up in my mouth. Here’s why:
1. An article written in 2011 cites “studies” from pre-tablet era—heck, pre-interactivity era. This line in particular is a killer: “Studies show that there is no benefit to intelligence-building programming under the age of three, and Belilovsky calls them a waste of time.”
I asked the author of the article for a link to these studies (out of a sincere quest for insight), and her response (albeit prompt) was disappointing:
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to go back and find all the studies I referred to, but yes I believe they focused on TV, movies and “computer programs,” but they were likely before the tablet era.
2. Anatoly Belilovsky (the expert cited in the above quote) is a New York-based pediatrician who is authoring a book entitled, Parents should not trust development to intelligence-building toys or tapes. I don’t know the guy, so I have no comment on his work as a medical professional or an author. But it is book titles like these that encourage us to view technology and learning as mutually exclusive—or even dangerous! Must the concept of screen time always equate to a child zombie sitting in front of a television or computer, unattended? Belilovsky himself says children have little incentive to solve a puzzle or build a structure when left alone because the interaction [with caretaker] is what motivates the child. Yes! I agree, Belilovsky. But why is this interactivity praised when the puzzle comes in a cardboard box instead of a touchable, digital display?
I know: It’s because people make sweeping generalizations about intelligence-building toys and tapes.
<—————–Exit stage left: Mutual Exclusivity.
(Wait…did he say tapes? As in cassette? Really?…)
—————–>Enter stage right: Technology Integration.
Parents magazine lists 50 Simple Ways to Make Your Baby Smarter. By my count, 10 of those items could easily be done using an iPad; specifically, numbers 4, 11, 32, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 47. For example,
#11: Joke around. Point to a photo of Uncle Frank, and call him “Mommy.” Then tell your child that you were being silly and laugh at your “joke” to build her budding sense of humor.
It doesn’t matter whether the photo of Uncle Frank is on paper or on a screen because the point of the exercise is to prompt interaction between the child and the parent. Technology integration [done well] is not clunky or competitive; it’s seamless and supportive! No stealing of thunder required.
So what did we cover?
1. I have unabashedly judged a book by its title. But writing about cassette tapes in 2011 is ridiculous. If that makes me an elitist, then I’m charmed to meet you.
2. A learning tool (digital or not) should not be a scapegoat for deficiencies due to lack of interaction from an educator. Otherwise, as this guy and this guy (and now I) say, “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine *should* be.”