With the dizzying array of ads and articles about the latest baby gadgets–whether it’s laptops, cellphones, mini-guitars, or talking farms–you’re probably tired of all the advertisements marketed to your baby, in order to keep up with the Baby Joneses. But maybe these tech toys aren’t so great for your kids after all.
According to a new study recently featured in The New York Times, JAMA Pediatrics found that when babies and parents played with electronic toys marketed as “language” promoters, parents ended up responding less to their baby’s babbling than when the parents and child played with traditional toys. This, in turn, makes babies verbalize less.
So, wait for it: It means traditional toys are still better than electronic ones when it comes to fostering cognitive skills and verbal development. Which, for moms and dads everywhere, probably doesn’t come as a major surprise.
Associate Professor of Communications Science and Disorders at Northern Arizona University, Anna V. Sosa, who led the study, stated why this might be the case:
“My hunch is that they were letting the baby interact with the toy and they were on the sidelines. Since the toy was providing some feedback to the baby—if they pushed the button, it did something, it made a noise, it lit up—we think that in addition to sort of letting the toys talk for them, the parents also sort of let the toy interact for them.”
According to the study, parents said about 40 words per minute when an electronic toy was being used, as opposed to 56 words per minute for non-electronic toys, and 67 words per minute with books. Sosa mentioned the results were the same regardless of sex or age of the baby. For three days, parents and babies 10-16 months old, played for 15-minute sessions, which were recorded the entire time.
However, it is important to note that the study was small–only 26 families participated–and most of the parents were white and educated. It goes without saying that using a bigger and more diverse group would not only benefit the results, but more accurately capture how parents and kids interact with each other.
Erica Jones and her now 3-year-old son Devin participated in the study when Devin was only 10 months old. Jones found the findings helpful, stating how using electronic toys did make her talk less:
“If there’s this other noise already there, I didn’t really feel like I wanted to talk. It felt a little bit weird sometimes to talk over the noise. The busier I get, the more easy it is to let him play with different electronic toys, and because of the study, it just reminds me to kind of move away from that.”
What do you think? Do you feel like electronic toys impede your child’s language development? Or do you think they help? Tell us in the comments below.