Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
According to BBC News, research from the University of Wisconsin presented at a meeting this week of the Society for Research in Child Development found that children aged between two and three were more likely to respond to video screens that prompted them to touch the screens than those that demanded no interaction. The study suggested that the more interactive the screen, the more real it was, and the more familiar it felt from a two-year-old’s perspective. Heather Kirkorian, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, carried out the research and says touch screens could hold educational potential for toddlers.
I’ve been in the field of early education for over 30 years, and we have had very strict policies about technology with young children. We do not allow any passive media in our centers because we believe that children need and deserve human interaction when they are in our care.
As a society, we are already handing our very young children iPhones and iPads. They quickly become very efficient at operating them, often much more so than the adults in their families. There is still so much that we do not know regarding the impact of technology on very young children, and it will certainly be interesting as the research develops regarding the changes in toddler’s brains.
Here are a few tips to remember:
1. No matter how entertaining or educational the technology, nothing will ever replace the power of human touch. Your child will always need your undivided attention. Even when she starts school and you are working together on her homework, sitting with her and establishing eye contact can lead to an impromptu conversation about something that is occurring at school that she might really need to share.
2. The human brain is the only organ not fully developed at birth. There isn’t enough research as yet on either side to support or to argue against using technology with very young children. What we do know is this: Just because a child is engaged and quiet does not necessarily mean that his needs are being met.
3. Research indicates that interactive technology is better than passive media. It is important that the programs presented to children are age appropriate and that the time is limited.
4. Using technology with your child is better than allowing her to experience it alone all the time. One of the concerns about young children getting too involved in technology is that they might not develop the appropriate social skills.
5. Use common sense. Ask yourself if you really want your very young child to master killing and fighting. Even if the game is appropriate, do you want him idly playing a game on a small screen instead of running, jumping, exploring, pretending, and using his imagination?
Technology is here to stay, and we all know that there will be more advances. We can no longer pretend that our children will not use it or that some of it isn’t great for them. However, it is like every other aspect of parenting: We must use common sense, moderation, and keep current as the experts continue to discover technology’s effects on our children.