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Mom and Dad: Put Your Cellphone Down, Too!

January 2018

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — There’s been plenty of evidence suggesting that parents should limit their child’s cellphone use. But now, researchers say there are times when mom and dad need to shut off their own phones, too! A new study by child psychologists at Temple University suggests that sudden cellphone interruptions could impact a toddler’s language skills.

Jennifer Bell is a Philadelphia area mom using her cellphone in the pursuit of science. Child psychologists asked Bell to teach a new word to her two-year old, but also answer a strategically timed cellphone call. Researchers at Temple University’s Language Learning Lab wanted to know whether or not the interruption by the call caused the language learning process to halt. Turns out it does.

“The child doesn’t learn the word when they’re interrupted and does learn the word when you have a conversation,” explained Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD, a child psychologist at Temple University.

Scientists hypothesized that young kids would learn better in a live back-and-forth conversation. They say that without human social connection, very little learning is accomplished. They call this the “socially gated brain.”

Hirsh-Pasek continued, “It’s not just about the quantity, but this kind of research shows us it’s about the quality as well. Preserving that conversation is what matters. As researchers, we want to understand that a little bit better. What works, what doesn’t work, and why.”

“It was kind of a moment,” Bell told Ivanhoe. “There are times that my kids are on devices or I’m on the phone and I am feeling like, hmm, should I be teaching them something and are we passing up learning moments?”

So, what can parents do to build children’s language skills? Turn off your cellphone when you are with your child. Start with a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation and work your way up. Draw your child in by noticing and commenting on what he’s doing. Also understand that language skills you foster now may help your child later in reading and in math. There are critical moments now that could build a solid foundation for learning later.

As if that information wasn’t enough to make you rethink your cellphone habits, researchers at the University of Texas found merely having a smartphone nearby reduces brain power. In a study of 800 cellphone users, researchers found those with their phones in another room did better on tests than those with their phones on their desks.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Donna Parker, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Bob Walko, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Existe abundante evidencia de que los padres deben de limitar el tiempo que sus hijos usan los teléfono celulares. Pero un nuevo estudio indica que hay ocasiones en que son los padres los que deben de apagar sus teléfonos. Según psicólogos de la Universidad de Temple, las repentinas interrupciones de un teléfono celular pueden afectar el desarrollo verbal de un pequeño.

Esta mamá de filadelfia, está usando su teléfono celular en apoyo de la ciencia. Psicólogos infantiles le pidieron que le enseñara a su hija de dos años una palabra nueva, pero al mismo tiempo que contestara una llamada telefónica que interrumpiría el dialogo.

Los científicos del laboratorio de lenguaje de la Universidad de Temple querían saber si esa interrupción haría que se detuviera el aprendizaje y así fue. La hipótesis del estudio es que los pequeños aprenden mejor cuando existe un dialogo continuo, y que sin esa conexión humana poco se logra enseñar.

¿Que pueden hacer los padres para ir aumentando el vocabulario de sus hijos? Apagar los teléfonos celulares cuando estén con ellos. Generar un dialogo interesándose en lo que está haciendo su hijo.

Y entendiendo que un buen dominio del lenguaje les ayudara en la lectura y las matemáticas en un futuro.

El dominio del lenguaje es el mejor indicador sobre el futuro escolar de un niño. Si nos tomamos el tiempo para conversar con nuestros hijos y nos concentramos en ellos les ayudaremos a crear un mejor vocabulario.

Los contribuyentes a este reportaje incluyen: Cyndy McGrath, Supervisora Productora; Donna Parker, Productora de Campo; Milvionne Chery, Productora Assistente;Bob Walko, Editor; Kirk Manson, Camarografo.

Producido por Child Trends News Service en asocio con Ivanhoe Broadcast News y auspiciado por una beca de la National Science Foundation.