[Paleopsych] NYT: See Baby Touch a Screen. but Does Baby Get It?

Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Wed Dec 28 15:41:38 UTC 2005

At Xmas I gave my wife /Animals in Translation/ by the phenom, Temple 
Grandin. She argues from animal observations that human babies have to 
play with and manipulate physical objects, pointing out that kids that 
have not held a pencil and drawn with it, cannot draw with the cursor on 
a computer screen. She is worried about children who are playing 
videogames and not outside playing in the physical world.

I have two adult kids and two teens, and I got them all a new trampoline 
for Xmas. It helps them keep their balance.

Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D.
Solutions Consulting Group
166 East 5900 South, Ste. B-108
Salt Lake City, UT 84107

Tel: (801) 261-1412; Fax: (801) 288-2269

Check out our webpage: www.solution-consulting.com

Feeling upset? Order Get On The Peace Train, my new solution-oriented book on negative emotions.

Premise Checker wrote:

> See Baby Touch a Screen. but Does Baby Get It?
> http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/15/national/15toys.html
>    Jetta is 11 months old, with big eyes, a few pearly teeth -
>    and a tiny index finger that can already operate electronic
>    entertainment devices.
>    "We own everything electronic that's educational - LeapFrog,
>    Baby Einstein, everything," said her mother, Naira
>    Soibatian. "She has an HP laptop, bigger than mine. I know
>    one leading baby book says, very simply, it's a waste of
>    money. But there's only one thing better than having a baby,
>    and that's having a smart baby. And at the end of the day,
>    what can it hurt? She learns things, and she loves them."
>    New media products for babies, toddlers and preschoolers
>    began flooding the market in the late 1990's, starting with
>    video series like "Baby Einstein" and "Brainy Baby." But
>    now, the young children's market has exploded into a host of
>    new and more elaborate electronics for pre-schoolers,
>    including video game consoles like the V.Smile and handheld
>    game systems like the Leapster, all marketed as educational.
>    Despite the commercial success, though, a report released
>    yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, "A Teacher in the
>    Living Room? Educational Media for Babies, Toddlers and
>    Pre-schoolers," indicates there is little understanding of
>    how the new media affect young children - and almost no
>    research to support the idea that they are educational.
>    "The market is expanding rapidly, with all kinds of
>    brand-new product lines for little kids," said Vicky
>    Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Foundation. "But the
>    research hasn't advanced much. There really isn't any
>    outcomes-based research on these kinds of products and their
>    effects on young children, and there doesn't seem to be any
>    theoretical basis for saying that kids under 2 can learn
>    from media.
>    "If parents are thinking, 'I need a break, I'll put my
>    4-year-old in front of this nice harmless video,' that's one
>    thing," she continued, "But if parents are thinking, 'This
>    is good for my 3-month-old, it will help her get ahead in
>    the world,' that's another."
>    In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no
>    screen time at all for babies under 2, out of concern that
>    the increasing use of media might displace human interaction
>    and impede the crucially important brain growth and
>    development of a baby's first two years. But it is a
>    recommendation that parents routinely ignore. According to
>    Kaiser, babies 6 months to 3 years old spend, on average, an
>    hour a day watching TV and 47 minutes a day on other screen
>    media, like videos, computers and video games.
>    "These new media toys are growing and becoming quite
>    prevalent," said Claire Lerner, a child-development expert
>    at Zero to Three, a nonprofit advocacy group that includes
>    information about brain development on its Web site. "This
>    generation of parents grew up thinking technology was all
>    positive, so if they see their child looking happy, engaged
>    with what's on the screen, it's very seductive. But a group
>    of toddlers making up a story together is a much richer
>    learning experience than dragging things across a screen to
>    make a story. Children learn best in the context of
>    relationships."
>    While there is no research on the effect of the new
>    commercial products, earlier research has shown that
>    educational television can teach 3- to 5- year-olds
>    vocabulary and number concepts. Most child-development
>    experts, however, say that babies under about 2½ are not
>    sufficiently developed for such learning.
>    Still, many parents buy their babies toys designed for older
>    children, either believing that their children are unusually
>    advanced or hoping the toys will make them so.
>    Just minutes after spending $150 on a VideoNow player and
>    cartridges (ages 7 and up) at a Manhattan Toys "R" Us, Ms.
>    Soibatian holds Jetta up in her stroller to see if she is
>    interested in Learn Through Music Plus! (ages 2 to 5). At
>    first, Jetta gently bops the screen with her whole hand,
>    watching the flashing lights, but soon she notices the
>    buttons, the index finger goes out, and a delighted Ms.
>    Soibatian is ready to buy again.
>    "You're never too young to learn, and kids nowadays are more
>    advanced because of all these educational toys," said Iesha
>    Middleton, another parent shopping at Toys "R" Us. Ms.
>    Middleton's son will be 3 next month. "I tried to teach my
>    son his ABC's when he was 1, and I didn't get very far, but
>    with the Leapster, he learned A-Z really fast, and he can
>    count up to 50."
>    Even Sesame Workshop, long the torchbearer in children's
>    educational media, is moving into the infant market, with
>    new "Sesame Beginnings" DVD's for babies 6 months and up.
>    "There are all these babies watching videos, and we wanted
>    to address the reality that's out there and come up with
>    something that is at least appropriate," said Gary Knell,
>    Sesame's president. "Ours are about sharing and caring,
>    modeling good parenting, not the cognitive approaches that
>    are more appropriate for 3- or 4-year-olds. We won't be
>    making any boastful claims about school success."
>    Others have less restrained marketing: The "Brainy Baby -
>    Left Brain" package has a cover featuring a cartoon baby
>    with a thought balloon saying, "2 + 2 = 4" and promises that
>    it will inspire logical thinking and "teach your child about
>    language and logic, patterns and sequencing, analyzing
>    details and more."
>    The V.Smile video game system - a "TV Learning System"
>    introduced last year - features the motto "Turn Game Time
>    into Brain Time" and cartridges called "smartridges." The
>    V.Smile, named "Best Toy of the Year" at the toy industry's
>    2005 trade show, has a television ad where a mom tells her
>    children, "You'll never get into college if you don't play
>    your video games!" The game says it is designed for children
>    3 to 7.
>    There are, as yet, no reliable estimates of the size of the
>    market for such devices, but at toy stores nationwide, they
>    are selling briskly.
>    Educational toy companies say their products are designed
>    with the existing educational and developmental research in
>    mind but add that more research on media effects would be
>    helpful.
>    "There's nothing that shows it helps, but there's nothing
>    that shows it's does harm, either," said Marcia Grimsley,
>    senior producer of "Brainy Baby" videos. "Electronics are
>    part of our world, and I think that, used appropriately,
>    they can benefit children."
>    Ms. Rideout says parents need more help sorting through the
>    array of electronic media: "We have detailed guidelines for
>    advertising and labeling products like down pillows and
>    dietary supplements, but not for marketing education media
>    products," she said.
>    Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Technology Review,
>    has watched children play with many of the new products and
>    believes that many of them have great education potential
>    for older preschoolers.
>    "We spend a great percentage of our energy in preschool
>    teaching kids about symbols, and interactive electronics are
>    very good teachers of symbols," Mr. Buckleitner said.
>    "V.Smile is like a hyperactive nanny with flashcards. We had
>    a 4-year-old, on the cusp of reading, who was so excited
>    about finding words in the maze that she got addicted, in an
>    arcade-ish way, and wrote down 20 words on a piece of scrap
>    paper, then came and said, 'Look at my word collection.' I
>    asked if she could read them and she could. It was very
>    motivating for her."
>    It does not work that way when the toy does not fit the
>    child's developmental stage or pace: Mr. Buckleitner
>    remembers a 2-year-old playing with an interactive
>    electronic toy, but not understanding the green "go" button;
>    after coaching from her mother, when she touched a cow that
>    mooed, she was frustrated by the cow's continued mooing
>    while she touched five other pictures. "The design people
>    are still learning, so the technology will get better," Mr.
>    Buckleitner said.
>    Still, he concedes that in teaching small children, "There's
>    not an educator alive who would disagree with the notion
>    that concrete and real are always better."
>    Research bears that out. In a line of experiments on early
>    learning included in a research review by Dan Anderson, a
>    University of Massachusetts psychology professor, one group
>    of 12- to 15-month-olds was given a live demonstration of
>    how to use a puppet, while another group saw the
>    demonstration on video. The children who saw the live
>    demonstration could imitate the action - but the others had
>    to see the video six times before they could imitate it.
>    "As a society, we are in the middle of a vast uncontrolled
>    experiment on our infants and toddlers growing up in homes
>    saturated with electronic media," Mr. Anderson said.
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