The Utredarens Lab

Points of Departure

Screen Time, Not Always a Bad Thing

Why kids with dyslexia are feeling better.

Posted Jan 16, 2018

By Emma Lindeblad, Ph.D.

Screen time has had a bad rap. But technology can help young people. Kids with reading disabilities are benefitting. Their self-confidence and self-perception can improve through the help of technology. Smartphone and iPad apps can actually help kids read, which results in improved well-being.

Previous research has shown that reading difficulties have led children to develop poor self-esteem and confidence as well low motivation in school. Researchers have assumed that this has been due to a continuous feeling of failure; children with dyslexia, for example, feel failure when they practice reading without any progress. Adults with dyslexia have reported that this lack of self-esteem has followed them into adulthood. (McNaulty, 2003)

Certain apps help motivate kids with dyslexia, and everyone including families reap the benefits.

Multiple studies from my work with children who suffer from dyslexia show that their self-esteem is no less than those of their peers (Lindeblad 2015; 2017). When these children were given smartphone reading apps, they felt more motivated about school and had greater self-agency. Parents reported a more positive climate at home with less nagging over homework (Lindeblad, 2016). 

What apps are actually working?

Schools in Sweden are increasing their use of apps to facilitate and enhance learning. For the group of children with dyslexia, the apps are in the category of Assistive Technology (AT). The app, for example, can photograph text and read it aloud to the student. Instead of struggling with the reading itself, the student can focus on comprehension of the facts. The student can also dictate text into an app, text to speech, which can help the writing process enormously. The functions of these apps are believed to have a positive long-term effect on the well-being and learning abilities of these children. The apps make it possible to sidestep the problem of reading, in turn allowing the reading challenged children to consume information smooth and simple. This literally takes the problem out of the equation.

On top of this perk, our research shows that children struggling with dyslexia who used AT through apps, their reading development continued to progress at the same speed even if they did not practice actively but simply compensated their reading with apps.

Technology is pulling kids out of the emotional rut caused by the difficulties of reading.

Getting around the emotionally trying activity of reading strengthens children’s mental state and their learning at the same time. In addition, the tech revolution, increased knowledge in the field of dyslexia, as well as more empathy have contributed to these outcomes.

Emma Lindeblad, Ph.D., is a lecturer with the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Linnaeus University in Sweden.