Touch interfaces and child development

January 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

My 33 month old has started to get very comfortable with the touch interface devices at home- we have a Vtech MobiGo which I picked up 2 months ago primarily as a tool to engage the child on a long flight. He also does educational apps on our iPod Touch and my iPhone 3GS. As he has gotten better and better at fully navigating these touch based devices- I am happy and a wee bit scared at the same time. Here is why.

  • Do these touch devices help him with his motor skills and ability to interact with automated devices and thus position him better for a touch based future?. An article I read today seems to show that kids seem to enjoy Apple touch devices in their classrooms. Not surprising. But are the parents thinking along the same lines as I am?
  • Does it make him reliant on only touch driven devices?. Case to point, he got his hands on a plain vanilla Nokia from a friend and kept swiping the screen to no avail. Humorous as it was (and almost representative of Nokia’s present/future versus that of Apple/Google), it made me wonder, can he even handle traditional non-touch devices adroitly?
  • There are tons of websites recommending apps for kids[1][2]. But are these primarily to shut them up so parents can do what they want to..or are they real tools for growth and education?
  • Schools are jumping on board with giving iPads for students[1][2]. Is this a healthy development?

Meanwhile, B&N, Amazon and Apple are rolling out apps and kids books tailored for touch devices. They look fantastic. But will this impact the child’s ability to learn to read the old fashioned way?. I have nothing against e-reading. In fact I love it. But that is after I spent all my childhood reading dog eared copies of classics aplenty.

Some recommended reading on the topic are Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools by Milton Chen (and the companion website) and also Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs” by Ellen Galinsky.

As I type this, my son is spending some time reading an old fashioned book with his mother. Not all is lost, atleast not yet 🙂


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