Babies learn faster using iPads than books, according to a neuroscientist leading research into the issue.
Annette Karmiloff-Smith, who is professorial research fellow at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck University, told the Sunday Times that parents should give their children tablets as soon as they are born. “They learn so fast on tablets… It is shocking how fast they learn, even faster than adults to do things like scroll up and down text," she said.
“Books are static,” Karmiloff-Smith continued. “When you observe babies with books, all they are interested in is the sound of the pages turning. Their visual system at that age is attracted by movement. That is why tablets, which have moving pictures and sounds, are very good.”
The Birkbeck team carried out an initial study of 36 babies – half aged six months and the rest 10 months – and found they recognised the number three more quickly when it was presented with sounds and lights on an iPad.
They are now undertaking a larger project with hundreds of babies and toddlers and Karmiloff-Smith believes babies who use iPads will go on to have better motor control and visual attention. “Everything we know about child development tells us this will be the case. You see an adult trying to learn on a tablet and it’s hopeless. You see a 12-month-old learning on a tablet and it is so quick.”
She criticised Baroness Greenfield, who has said that over-exposure to screens damages children’s brain development.
“You cannot ignore the digital world we are living in,” she said. “Scientists tend to be very emotional about this issue but we should follow the science, not the emotion.”