Digital media and technology can be beneficial to your child's early learning when used appropriately and effectively.
A key driver of your child's learning at his age is contextual learning. When using technology and digital media, remember to co-play with your child in order to point out interesting objects and explain what he is experiencing, as well as have meaningful conversations about the media you're using.

Just Right Learning

How to Use Technology to Your Child's Benefit

We believe:

Young children learn best when they interact with the world, but increasingly, this includes the exploration of technology tools and interactive media. It's no secret that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) held a strict “no screen time" rule for children less than 2 years old and limited screen time for older kids. But even the AAP found it challenging in today's connected world to shield our children completely from mobile phones, tablets, and the like. Raise your hand if you've ever found your toddler perplexed when your television didn't react after he swiped the screen. Exactly.

According to Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that promotes safe technology and media use for children, “38% of children under 2 have used a mobile device for media". This is a huge jump from just 10% two years earlier. As a response to this dramatic increase in technology and media exposure to babies and toddlers, the AAP has issued new guidelines for parents to use in guiding their young children's media use.

Even before the AAP changed its position, Playful Bee has always supported the responsible, measured and balance use of technology and media in our children's lives. Instead of getting rid of screen time completely, we took a closer look at what technology means and how you can cautiously use it to your child's benefit.

In January 2012, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College released and adopted a joint statement about technology and young children, supporting the appropriate use of technology tools and interactive media in early learning. The secret sauce to positively using technology as a way to enhance young children's education is to co-play with them. The joint statement suggests that “(a)s with shared book reading, use shared technology time as an opportunity to talk with children, use new vocabulary, and model appropriate use."

With the NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center statement as a guide, Playful Bee recommends the following approach to using educational technology with your young child:

  • When using an app or interactive experience with your child, be an active teammate. By co-playing, you can help him make sense of what he is seeing and experiencing. Think of ways to compare the flat-screen experience to a real-life example. For young children, focus on simple screen experiences that can be paired with the hands-on learning found in first-word books, stories and nursery rhymes, creative arts, cause and effect games, and problem-solving puzzles. When selecting a digital activity, look for something that will engage your child's imagination and creativity.
  • All screen time is not made equal; there are good, child-centered shows and movies out there. Some children's programming is clearly educational, but even non-educational material may provide a model of good behavior or interesting activities and perspectives. It is up to you, as a parent, to choose media wisely! You can also influence your child's screen time by providing background to your child's experience or taking the opportunity for hands-on involvement whenever possible. For instance, point out objects and characters you see on the screen with your child. Talk about what's going on in the program. Is there music and song? Great! Go ahead and sing-along and dance with your child! Your child will truly love and learn from the experience.
  • Young children learn about their world through repeated exposure to familiar people, objects and experiences. Technology can be a great way to do this; use your tablet or computer to show your child images of family and friends, animals, nature, and other facets of life.
  • Approach electronics with balance in mind. Educational technology can be a powerful tool, especially when it complements other more traditional materials and experiences. Take a balanced approach to your child's education by using appropriate educational technology together with plenty of hands-on sensory exploration, outdoor exercise, and social play.
  • Don't forget your camera! No matter which device it's a part of, you've no doubt been using it already to document your child's life. Change your focus slightly and use it to actively document your child's learning progress and beautiful work over time. This will not only make you more aware of what your child wants to learn, but will also point out where he needs help so you can help him master his next skill. Not to mention build his self-concept, self-confidence and pride in his work!
  • Young children need to be coached on how to use media devices in a healthy way. There has been growing concern about the potential negative effects that technology use can have on a young child's vision. While the research is still underway, we recommend that you keep your child seated at a reasonable distance away from the screen. In addition, use active engagement (as suggested above) to prevent him from keeping his eyes fixed on the screen for a long period of time, and put a time limit on each technology play session to give your child's eyes some rest.

For more information:

  1. Common Sense Media. Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America 2013. Common Sense Media. Retrieved on October 7, 2015, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america-2013.
  2. Ari Brown, M.D., FAAP, Donald L. Shifrin, M.D., FAAP and David L. Hill, M.D. FAAP. Beyond ‘turn it off': How to advise families on media use. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved on October 16, 2014, from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/36/10/54.full.
  3. Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College. Media as a Prompt for Play. Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College. Retrieved on September 27, 2013, from http://www.fredrogerscenter.org/blog/media-as-a-prompt-for-play/.
  4. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College. Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8: Effective Classroom Practice: Infants and Toddlers. NAEYC. Retrieved on September 18, 2013, from http://www.naeyc.org/content/technology-and-young-children and http://www.naeyc.org/content/technology-and-young-children/infants-and-toddlers.