The Impact of Cell-Phone Use on a Child’s Learning

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A Daily Practice, Daily Problem

Cell phones have become a common – and in many ways, necessary – part of modern daily life. Nearly everyone has one tucked away in their pocket, their bag or at least within arm’s reach. It’s not uncommon to find people checking these devices at countless points during their day; waiting in traffic, a slow moment at work, or maybe just for a second to unwind.
Parents, of course, are no exception. Mom’s and Dad’s have their devices, their social media accounts, work emails and job assignments to stay on top of. All of this alongside raising a child, it’s no wonder countless people find themselves juggling more than one task at once.

It’s no big deal, in most cases, but there is one specific part of the day that it might be best to set the phone down. That part of the day is the one you devote to educating your child, the time you spend teaching your child what sound a dog makes, how to say ‘Mommy’ or ‘Daddy’, as well as thousands of other words they’ll need to learn to understand and navigate the world.

What Scientists Have to Say

Recent studies have shown that a child’s learning suffers when a parent pauses the learning session to take a peek at their cell phones. This is especially true when teaching a child a new word, according to a study by the American Psychological Association.

A group of mothers were given a goal of teaching two new words to their toddlers, one part of the group was interrupted by cell phone calls when trying to teach the child, the second part of the group was not. Mothers were expected to repeat the target words to their child for a set amount of time and staying engaged themselves. When parents were interrupted by phone calls, they were no longer as engaged. In some cases, a few children waited for their mothers to focus on them again and some did not, instead they wandered off to inspect something else.

The results were simple and they might be what you’d expect: Children of mothers who were not interrupted during learning times remembered the new words they were meant to learn. The children of mothers who were frequently sidetracked, however, did not.

Is The Impact Significant?

It might be up to individual readers to judge if the issue is serious enough to cause a change in daily behaviors. After all, parenting and those choices made when raising and teaching a child are individual and personal. No one wants to be told how to raise their children. But, this study, and others like it, might be something to keep in mind, all the same.

As parents, it is your task to teach your child everything they need to know and if you aren’t teaching them as well as you could be, it’s something worth seriously considering. One or two missing words might not matter, but the slope is a slippery one and it could be very easy to accidentally start your child off slightly behind.

SOURCELearning on Hold: Cell Phones Sidetrack Parent-Child Interactions
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Jordan Warren is a 24 year old college student studying German and Linguistics, with a passion for words in all of their forms. LGBTQA+ and Women's Rights hold a special place in his heart, as well as those of special needs children. In his spare time, Jordan enjoys studying history, modern languages and writing poetry and short stories. Writing for Next Generation Magazine is his first official foray into the world of non-fiction.
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