Can Interactive Media Replace the Parent as the ‘More Knowledgeable Other’ in Early Language Development?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Kirsty Russell
Submitted: November 2018

Society is currently living in a screen age. Interactive media devices are increasingly being used by young children, often independently, without the presence of a parent. Parental reasons for this focus on educational, entertainment and babysitting purposes. Building on behaviourist and socio-constructivist understandings of young children’s language development, this is problematic for two important reasons. Firstly, it reduces the amount of parental linguistic input that a child receives in their early years, that is essential for language development. Secondly, features of parent-child interactions that drive language development cannot be replicated by interactive media use when children are alone (including scaffolding techniques, promoting joint attention, providing gestural clues and providing a familiar voice). Ultimately, interactive media cannot replace the parent as the More Knowledgeable Other in young children’s language development. Parents need to apply what is known about language development and be aware of their important role as the More Knowledgeable Other in interactive learning experiences before it is too late. Parents should engage in learning activities that revolve around parent-child interactions, before passing the responsibility of children’s language learning to interactive media becomes normalised. Implications for Educational Psychology practice and potential areas for further research are also discussed.

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