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Parents worried about use of interactive e-books

The majority of British parents are concerned about their children using interactive e-books, according to a new survey, with respondents suggesting they feared e-books would negatively affect their children’s attention span or expose them to inappropriate content.

More than 1 500 parents of children aged up to eight were surveyed by the United Kingdom reading charity BookTrust in association with the Open University.

The researchers found that most parents were worried about interactive e-books, with only 8% having no concerns about their offspring’s use of the medium. “Parents thought that print books are ‘better’ for children’s eyes, that they give their children ‘less headaches’ and also are better for their children’s healthy sleep.

“Some parents also voiced concerns about social risks associated with reading digital books, especially in terms of the danger of ‘more addiction with interactive books’,” wrote the researchers.

The researchers believe there is a need to “seriously address the concerns of parents around using digital books with their children” because “it’s clear that as children get older they will read more digital material”. They suggest that “those who have discovered the digital world with their parents may be more discerning readers and less vulnerable to the allure of inappropriate or poor-quality content”.

Print books preferred
According to the survey, The Digital Reading Habits of Children, print books remain the preferred reading format for children, with only 19% of them using an e-reader daily, and 57% never using one.

Parents who cited print as a favoured format when reading for pleasure totalled 76%, compared with the 30% who cited interactive e-books and the 15% who cited simple e-books. Print also came out top for educational reading, with 69% enjoying the format, compared with 34% for interactive e-books and 15% for simple e-books.

Parents whose children preferred print said the reasons for this ranged from their child liking to turn pages (52%) to their child enjoying owning a print book (43%) or choosing one from a library (41%).

BookTrust chief executive Diana Gerald said that “children will read online sooner or later”, and that it is “far better they are guided in their use through the eyes of a common-sense parent or carer than they are left to explore alone”.

“We must all embrace the digital world, as children are growing up using many different platforms for their reading. What’s fantastic is that even reluctant readers are probably reading more now than ever if you take account of e-books, social media, gaming narrative, Facebook, texting, Twitter and online forums,” she said.

“Still, some parents think digital reading has no place in shared family life. When used thoughtfully, in partnership with printed books, digital books can enhance and encourage children’s reading for pleasure and can encourage further reading with print books.” – © Guardian News & Media 2016

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Alison Flood
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