Last time on the blog, we talked about the technology of reading, and whether or not the Kindle had killed the physical book. The verdict was, thankfully, not really. But whilst technology might not have replaced our beloved paperbacks, it could be having an incredibly detrimental impact on our children.

You read all the time about how today’s children are addicted to technology. A recent survey by uSwitch.com, for instance, found that the average school child will carry over £200 worth of technology in their backpacks this year. These gadgets include the ubiquitous smartphone – iPhone or Android, depending on your preference – and some form of tablet computer.

Various technophobes will lament about the proliferation of technology in children’s lives. They’ll tell you it’s making our offspring lazy, emotionally underdeveloped, and socially inept. And now, the latest charge against technology is that it’s hindering our children’s reading ability.

In 2013, the National Literacy Trust found that children who read exclusively on a screen – either on a Kindle or an app on a tablet – were much less likely to enjoy reading than those who read printed material.

Similarly, Joanna de Guia, the founder of Story Habit, believes that tablets, with their apps and games and videos, could distract children from reading, worrying that “If they’re not getting that instant gratification from the book they’re reading, they can just play a game instead”.

It seems then that children who rely on tablets and mobiles for everything – including reading – could be at risk of not developing key reading skills. Moreover, if children aren’t reading for pleasure, then not only will they fail to improve at reading, but they will also miss out on all the other things that books can teach us, like empathy and imagination.

However, all hope is not lost. A more recent survey by the National Literacy Trust has found that the percentage of 8 to 18-year-olds that read daily outside of the classroom is up by 12.3% from 2010. Thus it seems that reading is actually on the rise, despite the increase in the number of tablets and smartphones.

Moreover, even when children are spending their free time on games and apps, they are still developing crucial reading skills.

It is hard to tell what ‘reading’ is today: we’re not really measuring the amount of content that kids are reading indirectly within games and apps,” explains David Kleeman, senior vice president of Dubit.

Overall, it seems that we don’t need to worry just yet. Tablets aren’t going to undo all the work humanity has done over the last few centuries to increase literacy. Children are still reading, and they will continue to do so – reading just looks a bit different now than it did ten years ago.

Featured image courtesy of John Morgan

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