The YouTube video shows a toddler with a magazine. She slides her fingers across the page, as she waits for the page to change. The next part of the video shows the same child playing happily with an iPad. The video ends with a message from the girls mother: ”For my one-year-old daughter a magazine is an iPad that does not work.”
For infant and child development psychologist Dr Jordy Kaufman, the YouTube video’s message is not surprising. But what he did find interesting was the strong reaction people had to it.
”The comments were very telling in terms of the feelings people have towards kids using touchscreen devices,” he says. ”Lots of people think it’s really funny, really cool. And there’s a lot of people who get the heebie-jeebies from it and think, ‘What are we doing to our kids?’.”
As the number of touchscreen apps targeting infants and toddlers explodes, the effects of the iPad on children’s brain development is largely unknown. Dr Kaufman, who is the founder and director of the Swinburne Baby Lab, decided it was time for research to be done.
Dr. Kaufman says that so far most of the warnings concerning children using iPads is based on research involving television viewing. ‘There is enough research showing television, especially some types of television, can have a detrimental effect on children,” Dr Kaufman says. ”But to assume it’s bad for all sorts of vices seems to be painting with an overly broad stroke.”
Dr. Kaufman’s research has tested 46 children ages four to six, and involves the examination of their attention and problem solving capabilities, after using an iPad, compared to using actual toys. The children are asked to solve a problem using a wooden model. Then they are asked to solve the same problem using an iPad.
The doctor also has children participate in drawing, coloring, and block building, using both real world objects, and on the iPad. His preliminary findings indicate that for some children, the iPads seem to motivate and enhance learning.
Dr, Kaufman hopes his study will help parents make informed choices. ”Technology is changing so quickly, and what we really have to try to do from a science and societal perspective is try to have the research not lag too far behind that.”