How does electronic reading affect our children? A startling study provides answers.


In a recent psychological study, it has been shockingly revealed that "electronic reading" or "digital reading" negatively impacts children, contrary to the prevailing belief that digital education can shift towards automation, providing children and students access to thousands of books that can be conveniently stored and downloaded onto tablets without the need for the physical burden of traditional books.

According to a report published by the specialized website "Big Think," as reviewed by "Al Arabiya Net," digital reading has a negative impact on children's reading comprehension skills. Researchers found that while digital reading enhances comprehension skills, its benefit is significantly lower, ranging from six to seven times less effective than traditional printed reading. Digital texts, such as social media conversations and blogs, tend to be much shorter and linguistically poorer compared to printed works. Moreover, electronic devices expose readers to distractions from social media, YouTube, and video games.

The authors of the study recommend that parents and teachers allocate specific time for their children with digital content, or at least focus on printed works or use basic e-readers with e-ink screens.

The report highlights a 2011 review of 99 studies exploring the impact of printed reading on children's comprehension skills. Unsurprisingly, the more children were exposed to printed reading, the better their understanding and recall of the material. Additionally, printed reading seemed to foster a positive attribute in children: as young readers consumed longer and more complex texts, their reading skills improved, encouraging them to pursue more intricate written works and enhancing their abilities.

In a recent study on this subject, scientists at the University of Valencia in Spain compiled 26 studies with nearly 470,000 participants, exploring the impact of digital reading during leisure time on comprehension. They found that digital reading improves comprehension skills but is six to seven times less beneficial than printed reading, suggesting a negative impact on children.

The researchers wrote, "Excessive exposure to digital reading activities may divert early readers from building a strong foundational base for reading during a critical period when they transition from learning to read to reading to learn."

The study confirmed several findings, with the first being that the linguistic quality of digital texts tends to be significantly lower. Electronic communication often involves informal language with simplified vocabulary, disregarding grammatical rules. The content is typically much shorter and does not require the focus and retention needed for longer narratives with complex plots and characters, which are enjoyed more fully.

According to Naomi Baron, Honorary Professor of Languages and Cultures at the American University, the physical properties of a book can uniquely enhance information retention. She states that with paper, there is a tactile engagement of the hands, coupled with the visual geography of distinctive pages. People often connect what they read with their progress in the book or its location on a page.

Baron adds that physical features like the smell, appearance, and texture of a book or magazine can make reading more enjoyable. She says, "If readers find pleasure in a mode of reading, it wouldn't surprise me that such enjoyment leads to better understanding. Certainly, as many participants in the study told us, print led to increased comprehension of stories."

The researchers also affirm that when reading content from digital sources, distractions from social media, YouTube, and video games are just a click away, hindering full comprehension of the texts.

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