In my home, we have six screens between two adults (two phones, two laptops, one iPad, and one TV) and our sixteen-month-old daughter has already figured out how to access the Spotify and YouTube app on our phones.
I do not encourage early exposure, as research has shown that there is little gain in doing so, but as I admit this to you with a slight feeling of guilt, we are also facing the fact that technology is (indeed) all around us.
Our everyday lives are closely intertwined and supported by technology and this makes it impossible to create a “tech-free environment” for our children – and to be honest, that is not something we should strive for because appropriate and moderated tech use can bring about positive benefits to your child or student’s development! All in all, it is also beneficial to keep the following advice by the Office of Education Technology, USA in mind:
“For children under the age of 2, technology use in early learning settings is discouraged. With families, technology can be used in active ways that promote relationship development, such as using video chatting software to talk to relatives, friends, and families whom they are not able to see on a regular basis. Parents who are interested in using media with their children can start around 18 months with high-quality content, but should always co-view content and use technology with their children.”
I believe that we should not look at tech, screens, and devices as “threats”, but as a vehicle for further bonding and learning at the appropriate age. Here are 3 tips to introduce and facilitate tech use:
- Use tech with purpose
When introducing tech to children, we should try to take time to explain what the function of that particular piece of technology does and this applies at home and in the classroom – “Let’s use Spotify on the phone to listen to music!”, “Let’s watch this video on the TV to learn how to dance!”, “Let’s use the iPad to play a sorting game!”, “Let’s make coffee for daddy by using the coffee machine!” By taking the time to explain the purpose of each device, your child/student will gradually understand that the tech around us are not toys, but they are useful tools to ease our everyday lives or help us learn!
- Use it together!
As you might have noticed in the examples I have given above, there is a lot of “let’s” involved, this is because research shows that when young children actively interact with an adult, the digital material can become a powerful learning tool. When opportunity allows, it is encouraged that devices are used to promote social bonding when, for example, family and friends live in a different country. This also applies to older children and students too! Use the tech together to bond and create opportunities for communication.
- The Three Cs
Each child, each family, classroom, and school is unique and should address tech use differently. First and foremost, one simple and effective way is to simply observe your child/student’s interest, what they are drawn to, what engages them, then make the decision that feels the most comfortable for you as a parent, teacher, or guardian. Lisa Guernsey, author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child, suggests referring to the Three C’s: the content, the context, when facilitating tech use:
- Content—How does this help children learn, engage, express, imagine, or explore?
- Context—What kinds of social interactions (such as conversations with parents or peers) are happening before, during, and after the use of the technology? Does it complement, and not interrupt, children’s learning experiences and natural play patterns?
- The individual child—What does this child need right now to enhance his or her growth and development? Is this technology an appropriate match with this child’s needs, abilities, interests, and development stage?
In conclusion, there is still more research to be done to fully understand the impact of tech in our children and students’ learning, but I think, let’s try not to feel so guilty, or afraid of tech usage in young children! There can be some good in it.
For more detail and research, I recommend checking out:
- Guiding Principles for Use of Technology with Early Learners (https://tech.ed.gov/earlylearning/principles/)
Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/ps_technology.pdf)