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Parents and Children Interact with Print and Electronic Books Differently


Do parents and children engage with print books differently than electronic-based books? The study, “Differences in Parent–Toddler Interactions with Electronic versus Print Books,” appearing in the April 2019 issue of Pediatrics (published online March 25) studied how 37 parent-toddler pairs interacted using three book formats: print books, basic electronic books on tablet and enhanced electronic books on tablet (featuring sound effects/animation). They found that parents and toddlers verbalized more when reading print books and when using electronic books, parents tended to talk less about the story and more about the technology itself. They also suggest that toddlers become focused on the tasks of tapping or swiping on electronic devices, instead of maintaining focus on interactions with the parent around the story. This difference held true for both basic and enhanced tablet books, suggesting it was not just the enhancements that were interfering with parent-toddler verbalizations and collaboration, but the tablet itself. One theory the authors propose for the difference between the two mediums is that tablets may be seen by parents and children as individual use items, rather than something to be shared. Therefore, pediatricians may wish to continue promoting reading of print books, especially for toddlers and young children, who still need support from their parents to learn from any form of media (print or digital). They also encourage continued research in this area to understand specific aspects of the electronic books and tablet devices which might promote positive parent-child interactions.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds