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Can Babies Learn From Phone Apps?

Alison Wood | 5, October 2013


In today's world that is full of electronics, fancy phones and social media, it's not surprising that companies are trying to keep up with the trends in the baby arena. Now, moms and dads can download hundreds of apps to help their babies learn new concepts—or so they say.

The American Board of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two have no electronic "screen time" while older children should be limited to one or two hours per day. Screen viewing, whether it is movies or games, tend to put small children into an over-relaxed state of mind—not promote creative thinking.

Unfortunately many apps claim to teach babies colors, body parts, languages and more. If this was truly the case, moms and dads could just turn on an app and walk away for hours at a time and have a genius baby. However, it just doesn't work that way.

Babies and young children learn new concepts most effectively through personal interaction. Moms and Dads who take time to sit down and sound out letters point out the green grass and blue sky see kids lock into learning at a faster pace than kids who stare at a screen for hours on end.

Just because an app is labeled "learning" does not mean it is a more effective tool than a parent singing the alphabet song. Small children also learn more quickly when their bodies are involved with the concepts. For example, you may desire to teach your little one some favorite songs. You would use hand motions and clap to help your child remember the words. As your child sees your smile, hears your voice and watches the motion of your hands, he will learn to mimic you and begin repeating the words without much prodding. The songs you sing with your little one will stick to him longer than some words and music on a screen that claim to promote learning.

Are all apps bad for munchkins? No, absolutely not. If you are in a situation where you really need an adult conversation, you should not feel guilty about letting your son or daughter use a learning app for thirty minutes or so. The danger comes when you depend on the electronic apps to teach your child important concepts. The same is true with movies or online learning websites. Electronic learning should never replace person-to-person learning.

When parents become addicted to letting their kids use apps, watch movies and play electronic games for hours on end, they are setting up a perfect opportunity for their child to become a socially backward person. The more your child interacts with the virtual world, the less he interacts with reality. Too many times a child can become so involved with the virtual world that even when the electronics are shut-down their brain keeps churning in "virtual mode".

Two companies are in a legal dispute over false advertising issues concerning baby apps. Commercial-Free Childhood is filing complaints against Fisher Price and Open Solutions for claiming that their apps can teach children numbers, languages and more through their popular apps for babies. However, Commercial-Free Childhood believes they are deceiving parents through what they consider false claims. Commercial-Free Childhood is not against all electronic learning, but they are against companies making such claims that they believe are totally false.

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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