Limiting parents' cellphone use can help a child's learning, research suggests

There's evidence that suggests parents limit their child's cellphone use.

And now researchers at Temple University are studying why parents may want to limit their own cellphone use - especially around very young children.

Mom Jennifer Bell is part of the study. Child psychologists asked Bell to teach a new word to her two-year-old, but also to answer a strategically-timed cellphone call.

Scientists at Temple's language learning lab wanted to know whether or not the interruption by the call caused the language learning process to halt. They found out that it does.

Psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek said, "the child doesn't learn the word, when they're interrupted and does learn the word when you have a conversation."

Scientists hypothesized that young kids would learn better in a live back-and-forth conversation. They've found that without human social connection, very little learning is accomplished.

Experts call this the "socially gated brain."

"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," Hirsh-Pasek said.

Bell said, "It was kind of an 'aha' moment. There are times that my kids are on devices or I'm on the phone and I am feeling, hmmm, should I be teaching them something and are we passing up learning moments?"

There are things parents can do to build up children's language skills.

First of all, turn off your cellphone when you're 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 or she is 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.
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