Healthy App Use
Although app use and other technologies are the wave of the future, it is important to remember that nothing will ever take the place of face-to-face communication. Eye contact, gestures, non-verbal communication, etc. are all very important and essential for human interaction & development.
We are a practice that implements this new technology in our clinic as a means of another tool to use in therapy just as we do board games, printables, functional communication outings, etc. We guide our patients’ parents to also consider the same when using apps with their children. It is a tool, not a replacement of that interaction. Just as us parents should sit beside our children while watching a movie or t.v. show (and limit the amount of viewing time), we also need to do the same when our children use the app technology. Lisa Dagg has compiled a wonderful list of tips for parents when it comes to using apps with children.
Blog contribution by Lisa Dagg, M.S. CCC-SLP
Tips when using apps:
1- Always preview each app program before handing it over to your child. Be sure to check for age appropriate language, topics, and for older children access for others to interact with your child (example: Words with Friends pairs strangers up to play each other). It’s important to review internet safety with your children who may be playing these games (i.e. never provide any personal information such as your age, name, location, school, etc).
2- Create a shared experience. Avoid allowing your child to play with the device in isolation. Instead, sit with your child and view the screen together. Stop “screen time” often and talk face to face (eye contact) about the game or program you’re playing with.
3- Provide communication opportunities and turn-taking by requiring your child to request before you act and alternating turns. For example, use a desirable app and wait for your child to request “my turn” before giving your child his/her turn. You can also model this language by requesting “It’s my turn please” when your child has finished his/her turn.
4- Turn down the sound! Many apps have audio that does the talking for you. Turning off the volume gives both you and your child an opportunity to talk. For example, My First Words (a vocabulary flashcard app) says the word for the child. After reviewing the pictures with the audio on, turn it off and have your child say the words. This also works great with the apps that pair animals sounds with the animals.
5- Use apps that provide choices for your child, not only does this encourage creativity but it also provides a fun activity to promote use of descriptive language. One app that this works great for preschoolers is Elmo Monster Maker. Turn down the sound and have your child verbally describe the eyes, nose, and hat that s/he chooses for the monster face.
6- There are several articulation apps that can provide a fun way for you child to practice his or her target sound(s) while playing games. The ArtikPix app also has a voice recording option, so your child can listen to his or her productions, providing immediate feedback and facilitating self-correction.
7- Have fun but don’t go overboard. Time on the device should be limited.. Think of it as another “screen” similar to your TV and computer, a half hour a day is plenty! Apps can be used as a special reward but nothing can replace the value of communication between two people!