“I Thought Babies Liked Rattles…” The Importance of Social Interactions

By Natalie Lay, M.A., CCC-SLP“It’s too early!” This is the thought that might be crossing your mind as you debate whether or not to give your toddler, or even infant, the iPad. Although there are many conveniences that the iPad has to offer, and even I find it hard to spend too much time away from my electronic devices, it is important to note that the iPad should not replace “traditional” play and social interactions.

A recent segment on the Today Show presented a new study about giving infants iPads and the effect that it had on number recognition. My first thought was, “Why does an infant need to learn his/her numbers?” It is not likely that they will ask for change, look at the time, or balance a checkbook. In my opinion, the quality of what is learned with an iPad is unlike the learning that takes place in natural opportunities in the everyday life of a toddler.

Social interactions play a critical role in the learning of language in toddlers. Parents and caregivers are able to adapt their responses to their child’s specific utterances, unlike an iPad. They are able to add nonverbal language and emotions to their responses, unlike an iPad. And, parents and caregivers are able to flex their teaching methods and implement prompting and support when their toddler needs extra help in learning a new skill.

The importance of social interactions in learning also holds true with respect to how children develop early reading skills. Although there are many iPad apps that target early reading skills, don’t forget about the importance of books and play experiences!

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