5 January 2007

Educational benefits of electronic toys questioned

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According to the Wall Street Journal, “two recent studies suggest that the oft-touted educational benefits of such toys are illusory, and child development experts caution that kiddie electronics, even those bought purely for fun, can have negative side effects such as inhibiting creativity and promoting short attention spans.”

“A two-year, government-funded study by researchers at the University of Stirling in Scotland found that electronic toys marketed for their supposed educational benefits, such as the LeapFrog LeapPad, an interactive learning activity toy, and the Vtech V provided no obvious benefits to children. “In terms of basic literacy and number skills I don’t think they are more efficient than the more traditional approaches,| researcher Lydia Plowman told the Guardian. Although no Luddite (Ms. Plowman makes the rather perverse recommendation that parents give children their old cellphones so that they can learn to “model” adult behavior with technology).”

At a Boston University conference on language development in November, researchers from Temple University’s Infant Laboratory and the Erikson Institute in Chicago described the results of their research on electronic books. The Fisher-Price toy company, which contributed funding for the study, was not pleased. “Parents who are talking about the content [of stories] with their child while reading traditional books are encouraging early literacy,” says researcher Julia Parish-Morris, “whereas parents and children reading electronic books together are having a severely truncated experience.” Electronic books encouraged a “slightly coercive parent-child interaction,” the study found, and were not as effective in promoting early literacy skills as traditional books.”

(via Pasta and Vinegar)

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