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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Books still beat tablets for reading to children

AFP   October 23, 2013
First Published: 11:12 IST(23/10/2013) | Last Updated: 13:33 IST(24/10/2013)

Over half of British households may now have a tablet, but when it comes to bedtime stories parents still prefer the feel of paper.

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A Talking Tots-commissioned survey of 1,500 UK parents with children under the age of five found that 98 % claim to read to their children at bedtime and that only 5 percent said that they always used a tablet or e-reader.

The vast majority -- 70 % -- said that they always use a real book while 24 % said that they do turn to an electronic device from time to time.

When it comes to the most popular bedtimes stories, "The Gruffalo" by Julia Donaldson is number one, followed by Eric Carle's evergreen classic, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

And although tablets have been hailed as learning devices for older children because of the levels of interactivity they offer, most parents (85%) say that letting their children turn the pages and provide sound effects can be just as stimulating. Half of respondents also admitted that they make sound effects of their own and used different voices for the characters when reading to their children.

Research into the impact of using electronic devices on sleep patterns shows that exposure to a smartphone, tablet, PC or TV screen in the hours leading up to bedtime overstimulates the brain and disrupts sleep patterns.

Worse still, exposure to the artificial light from phone, tablet and TV displays for two hours or more can suppress levels of melatonin (the hormone in the body that promotes sleep) by as much as 22 %.

As for whether very young children should be exposed to tablets at all, the jury is still out. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that allowing children under the age of 2 to use tablets can delay language development and disrupt sleep.

However a growing number of researchers and academics believe that because, unlike a TV, tablets and smartphones are interactive, when used correctly the devices can actually enhance learning and development even in very young children.


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