Technology & Early Childhood Development

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by Terre Britt

There is no denying the explosion of technology aimed at teaching and entertaining our children. As we continue to move forward in this technical world, parents and educators need to be aware of the risks and rewards of using these new technologies.

Some early childhood instructors are often skeptical of using digital media and devices with kids as young as age two. Preschool teachers worry that these devices can take time away from hands on experiential play learning that we know is the primary way kids of this age learn and grow. Some parents say they need the short breaks these devices and media provide so they can take care of everyday adult life needs. Let's examine the benefits and potential pit falls.

First of all, children learn life skills through play. Using these devices and media is no different. The ability to use and understand technology is now a life skill. As technology continues to advance and creep into places it was never seen before, the ability to use it efficiently is becoming essential to everyday living. Even a large amount of socialization is now done with technology and, even if we don't agree with it, being able to communicate and socialize within societal norms using technology is becoming an everyday life skill.

One challenge for parents and educators is to select the appropriate media and devices that provide a positive impact on development and use them to promote learning. It's easy to just select the app or media that will hold the child's attention, but will it promote growth in a positive way? Are they missing out on learning social skills or are the perhaps learning to socialize in this new digital world? What is the balance between physical and digital and where do they intersect?

There are obviously no simple answers, and each parent is going to have their own preference, but here are couple tips that some experts suggest:

    • Don't detach from the process. Instead of just turning on a movie or handing over your tablet, create a discussion, challenge or project. Ask the child questions, create goals and encourage imagination. In other words, be involved, don't just set it and forget it.
    • Make sure it is age appropriate. A child's needs are constantly changing as they develop. It is our job to correctly evaluate this growth and provide material that challenges them but is not too complicated that it discourages them.
    • Encourage technical competency. The ability to find information and use technology to learn is going to be vital to our children's future. Provide them confidence early in this arena and you are setting a foundation for success.

About the Author: Terre Britt owns and operates an in-home family child care in Burnsville, MN. She has over 30 years of experience in the industry and has several certifications pertaining to early childhood development.