Can the Internet Make Your Kids Smarter?

Most of the parents we talk to say no! In fact, they equate successful parenting with getting their kids off devices. But is technology all bad? Are there ways to utilize tech so even young kids can benefit from the digital age?

Technology skepticism generally follows two frames of thought:

1) Too much time on screens is detrimental to kids’ health (i.e. their brains will turn to mush).
2) Tech is a distraction from education, not a tool for it

Aren’t traditional toys — even TV — better than a device?

A study led by Professor Dimitri Christakis, author of the American Academy of Pediatrics Screen time guidelines, tried to determine what tools benefit kids most. 

He considered 6 key features:

table 1 6 06 page 1 1

The conclusion? Touchscreen devices take the lead in aiding a child’s development.

How Can I Be Sure Screens are Aiding My Child’s Education & Development?

This is the big question! And Carrots&Cake is here to help.

Let’s Look at the Research

Shayl F. Griffith led a team that conducted a systemic study (this means they studied the studies) published in the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

The question: To what extent are interactive apps helpful in supporting early learning?

They looked at 1447 studies worldwide and selected 35 for systemic review involving more than 4600 participants. Out of the 35 studies, 29 included randomized designs, while 18 were randomized controlled trials. These trials are known to be the gold standard of academic research. 

Their team found that kids did enjoy learning benefits in early academic skills when using touchscreen devices, concluding screens were exceptionally beneficial when learning early mathematics for typically developing children.

Another systemic review was led by Heping Xie (2019). His team filtered more than 2400 articles down to 36, involving more than 4000 participants. 

They made some eye-popping findings:

  • Educational apps are positive in terms of assisting and potentially expediting a child’s education.
  • Young children who learned with touchscreen devices performed better than those who did not have access to touchscreen devices. 
  • The effectiveness of touchscreens increases with age.
  • Touchscreens are more effective when learning STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) compared to non-STEM subjects.

What does it mean for me?

This research suggests that educational apps can be beneficial to kids’ academic development.  

But it’s important to keep in mind most of these studies were carried out in schools and labs — they may not translate precisely to parents at home. Also, the studies didn’t account for moderators like poor sleep quality and delayed gratification.

At Carrots&Cake we’re convinced that moderators are crucial when figuring out the right balance of screen time for your child. So while you can rest assured that your child’s brain won’t turn to mush while using educational apps, how long they should use their device is another topic altogether.

Tap to find out find out the neuroscience behind screen time