In my home, we have six screens between two adults (two phones, two laptops, one iPad, and one TV), and our toddler has already figured out how to access the Spotify and YouTube app on our phones.
I don’t encourage early exposure, but admittedly 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. Thus making it impossible to create a “tech-free environment” for our children.
However, that is not something we should strive for because appropriate and moderated tech use can positively benefit your child or student’s development. All in all, it is also beneficial to keep the following advice by the Office of Education Technology, the USA, in mind:
“For children under the age of two, technology use in early learning settings is discouraged. However, families can use technology in active ways that promote relationship development, such as using video chatting software to talk to relatives, friends, and families they cannot see regularly. 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.”
We shouldn’t look at screens and devices as “threats” but as vehicles for further bonding and learning. So here are three tips for introducing and facilitating tech use:
Use tech with purpose
When introducing technology to children, we should try to take time to explain what the function is. This applies at home and in the classroom: “Let’s use Spotify on the phone to listen to music!” “We can watch this video on the TV to learn how to dance!”, “Let’s use the iPad to play a sorting game!”, “Want to make coffee for daddy by using the coffee machine?”
By explaining the purpose of each device, your child/student will gradually understand that the tech around us are not toys; instead, they are valuable tools to ease our everyday lives or help us learn!
Use it together!
The Three Cs
Each child, each family, classroom, and school is unique and should address tech use differently. An effective option is to observe your child/student’s interest and 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 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?
There is more research comprehending the impact of tech on our students fully, but for now, we can lessen our guilt over technology use in early childhood. 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)