If you’re a parent you’ve likely been bombarded with stories about the harmful effects of screen time on kids.
But a new UBC study suggests the issue might not be so black and white – at least when it comes to learning.
The study, conducted using iPad apps, found that kids learned just as well from the tablet as they did from human instructors.
Led by UBC psychology professor Susan Birch, researchers asked two groups of 43 students to play a game about remembering animal facts.
Half of the kids played it on an iPad, the other half with a live teacher; when the children were later tested on what they’d learned both groups showed the same level of knowledge.
Birch says this may be a stepping stone to using technology in a different way with kids.
“A lot of parents even give their toddlers apps to play with, but they give reasons such as ‘to calm them or to entertain them,’ they’re missing an important opportunity to teach.”
Birch says while about 80% of iPad apps are geared at children, the results show that screen time with the devices doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
“One of my goals for my team and my students is to develop more of these apps and test them so that maybe I can assuage parents concerns by providing evidence that these apps can be effective learning tools.”
She says that’s noteworthy, considering when parents were polled about the reasons they give their child a mobile device, learning didn’t make the top three answers.
Birch says she hopes to conduct similar studies on younger children, as well as teenagers in the future.
The study, titled “Children can learn new facts equally well from interactive media versus face to face instruction,” appears in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.