Audio and Mental Development
In the past two years, a few research studies showing the relationship between audio and children's mental development have been published. These studies indicate the assistive role that audio plays in children's reading development, language development, and brain development. Please note, however, that while there is information that signifies audio's positive role in children's mental development, there is information that points to its negative role as well. Below you will see further details about these findings.
ROLE OF AUDIO IN CHILDREN'S MENTAL DEVELOPMENT
Based on the information we have gathered, it appears that audio assists, in one way or another, with the following aspects of children's mental development: reading development, language development, and brain development. As you may see below, we have segmented our findings into the role that audio plays in children's reading and language development and the role that audio plays in children's brain development. Most of our findings are specific to the United States. Quantitative information is limited, but all the findings below are based on research or scientific studies.
Support for reading and language development
An exploratory study published by Germany's Hans-Bredow-Institut for Media Research in 2016 reveals that digital audio pens, products which read and convert optical information into sounds, can be a helpful supplement for language and reading development. According to the study, digital audio pens could be especially useful to children who receive less support from parents such as those who belong to less-educated families or families whose first language is not German.
Jenny Radesky, a child development expert and the lead author of the Media and Young Minds policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says, however, that a child will only begin to process audio, such as a book on tape, at about age three or four. She explains that it is still best if there is an adult to answer questions or explain things. This is especially true in the case of very young children who learn language best when there is an actual person responding to their cues. In an article published early this year, there was mention of studies revealing that children who listened to recorded Chinese voices at a young age did not demonstrate any significant improvement in Chinese language tone distinction compared to those who did not.
According to an article posted online last year, Reyna Gordon, a director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Music Cognition Lab, published research demonstrating that children who are adept in distinguishing rhythmic changes in music are also adept in grammar. This suggests that music training or audio content relating to music or music training may have some influence on children's language development.
Listening to audiobooks was found to be effective in speeding up reading development in second-grade and third-grade students in the San Francisco Bay Area, based on a research published in 2016. According to the research, the students who listened to audiobooks were able to achieve 58% of the expected annual gain in reading development in only ten weeks, making the learning rate 33% better than that of the control group.
A study of parents and children in Arizona, which was published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal in 2016, shows, however, that electronic toys, such as those that generate sounds, lights, music, phrases, or words, are linked to reduced language input quantity and quality. Their use in parent-child play time is therefore discouraged as far as language development is concerned. The number of words produced by parents during play with electronic toys (39.62) was fewer than those produced during play with traditional toys (55.56) and books (66.89). Play with electronic toys produced fewer adult words, fewer parent verbal responses, fewer conversational turns, and fewer content-specific words.
Support for brain development
Cognitive scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported last February that the "back-and-forth-conversation" between a child and an adult has an impact on that child's brain development. They have discovered as well that, compared to the number of words a child hears in the first three years of his or her life, this "back-and-forth conversation" is more important in the development of the child's language skills.
In their study of children aged four to six, the scientists have found that the conversational turns were responsible for a significant fraction of the changes in the children's brain physiology and language skills. This connection suggests that, regardless of education or income, parents can help with their children's brain and language development simply by conversing with them. With this finding, the scientists now turn to investigating potential interventions that will "incorporate more conversation into young children's lives." These interventions could be devices, programs, or toys that are capable of conversing or electronic reminders that prompt parents to converse with their children.
According to an article published last year, recent studies from the University of Southern California's Brain and Creativity Institute reveal that music training "accelerates maturity in areas of the brain responsible for sound processing, language development, speech perception and reading skills." This finding was based on an ongoing study involving children from underserved areas in Los Angeles. The effect of music training on the children's brains was investigated using behavioral testing, MRI scans, and electroencephalograms. While music training could not be considered audio content, the studies suggest that audio content relating to music or music training may have some influence on children's brain development.
Audio mainly plays a supporting role in children's mental development, as adult-child interaction is still deemed the best way for children to develop their mental or cognitive faculties. There is evidence that supports the positive impact that audiobooks, digital audio pens, and music-related audio content have on children's reading, language, and brain development. However, there is evidence as well that indicates electronic toys that generate sounds may be inferior to traditional toys and books when it comes to language development.