Paper Books Beat Tablets for Parent-Child Interactions


MONDAY, Sept. 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Parents seeking quality reading time with their toddlers would do well to choose an old-fashioned book over a newfangled e-reader, a new study argues.

Parents and kids appear to have a better shared experience when they're reading a book together than when they read with a tablet, researchers report.

Parent and child tended to tussle over the tablet, explained lead researcher Dr. Tiffany Munzer, a fellow in developmental behavior pediatrics at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

"In this study, print books were great for promoting an environment that was rich with reciprocity, but the tablet appeared to create some conflict between parents and toddlers who were both trying to control the tablet," Munzer said.

This study isn't the first by Munzer to raise questions regarding the value of e-books when reading to young children. Another study published in last March looked at verbal interactions when parent and child shared an e-book.

In that study, parents and toddlers talked more when reading print books, and were more likely to hold the book or turn pages together. Toddlers presented with an e-book became focused on tapping or swiping the screen and didn't pay as much attention to either the story being told or the parent reading to them.

Munzer's latest study focused on nonverbal signs of "social reciprocity" -- the back-and-forth exchanges that happen between parents and children when they're sharing a task.

This act of sharing "creates moments of joy, and is the foundation for child development. It is how children learn new words, gain emotional competence, and builds on their problem-solving abilities," Munzer said. "Social reciprocity is how relationships are nurtured and is important for our future generation's development and achievement."

In the latest study, Munzer and her University of Michigan colleagues observed 37 parent-toddler pairs reading together in a laboratory using three different book formats -- print, basic e-readers and enhanced e-books on tablets.

The enhanced e-readers contained extra elements like sound effects and animation. The basic e-books allowed for swiping to turn the pages and tapping illustrations to elicit the appearance of words, but there was no auto-narration or sound effects.

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