Once upon a time, there were no digital devices... Now the whole world is saturated with questions and concerns about how we are educating our children in this new day and age. The question of ‘What’s best?’ What should we allow and not allow our children to do with digital devices? No matter what their age, these questions are being asked everywhere, not just at home but in schools.
As teachers, we are always on alert for teachable moments and the opportunity to engage students in what may not be on our lesson plans. If we didn't take advantage of these chance encounters we would be remiss in our jobs. Parents should also be doing the same. We all know the research about child development and developmentally appropriate practices varies wildly. Especially when dealing with anything digital. We don’t know the ramifications of adult Smart Phone usage, let alone children and iPads. We do not have enough research about technology and young children to make definitive statements about technology use for any age or given the amount of time. We do, however, have a solid body of evidence about early childhood development that could help give some insight. The following pointers come from AEYC, the local affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- Young children try to make sense of their world through play: preschoolers are watching us play with our smartphones at every turn. Children reflect and play what they see.
- Young children are curious, active learners - it would be amazing to be able to watch and observe a young child as they experimented with the cause and effect as they 'fiddled' with the smartphone. These are the foundation pieces for inquiry and science.
- The foundation of young children's social-emotional skill development is dependent on healthy relationships and grown-ups who provide reassurances to explore their environment; to describe and name what children are experiencing and feeling- to build vocabulary and a sea of knowledge about how the world works and how they feel about it.
Whether it be playing with your cell phone, watching TV, reading a book, sharing a special occasion or any other day to day activity, one thing is certain, as children learn and grow into adults, parents are their first teachers. You should monitor what your child uses and you should actively be involved with their screen time. That much we do know, and if we follow those two simple concepts, I believe we can live techno guilt-free!