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Alyssa Sanders, Janet Preis. Ed.D.

Should Parents Put Down Their Cell Phones?  The impact of mobile devices on linguistic input to preverbal infants

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Within the first few years of life, a caregiver is responsible for most, if not all, language development for a preverbal infant. As a result, the quality and quantity of parental language input creates a foundation for an infant’s future. Specifically, a high quantity of verbal and non-verbal language input combined with the rich quality of infant-directed speech and infant-directed actions are vital components that facilitate language acquisition. As technology continues to evolve, especially the use of mobile devices, it may be problematic for language learning.

There has been a growing but still modest body of research on how parental uses of mobile devices affect language input to infants. Some observational research suggests that mobile devices can lead to distracted parenting. On the contrary, other research proposes that parents intentionally decrease their mobile device use around an infant or child. This issue needs to be properly researched in order to educate caregivers about what, if any, consequences there are to mobile device use around preverbal infants. In order to accurately research these consequences, an experimental research method needs to be developed. 

The present research proposal aims to address whether or not the presence of a mobile device affects the quality and quantity of infant-directed speech and infant-directed actions during free time and structured play activities. The study will be a quasi-experimental, randomized control time-series design. The participants will be first time mothers between the ages of 21-35 years old. They will be observed in natural settings throughout daily routines for eight weeks. The first four weeks will be baseline for the experimental and control groups. The mobile device intervention will be applied to the experimental group during the last four weeks of testing, while the control will group essentially participate in a second baseline. Twice a week for eight weeks, participants will be asked to record using a digital language processor (DLP) for eight consecutive hours and also record with the camcorder for 15-20 minutes. The DLP will be utilized to collect data on the quality and quantity of verbal input and the video camera will be utilized to collect data on the quality and quantity on non-verbal input. Results of the study will analyze if the quality and quantity of a verbal and non-verbal input from caregiver to infant will be affected by the presence of a mobile device.

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