“…New digital technologies have entered every aspect of our reality, including families and the lives of young people. They have already affected preschool children’s play and learning as well.”
– UNESCO (2010)
I recently did a presentation on technology at the Alberta Early Years conference. I opened the session with a confession – I am not a technology expert and I have been a reluctant user of new technologies.
However, as the above quote from UNESCO states, technology is in every aspect of our lives. Families are using technology, and in family literacy we work with the strengths and tools that families are bringing. So the debate is no longer “do we use it,” it is “how do we use it.”
Major studies (“Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers” – Kaiser Family Foundation Report – 2006, American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Paediatric Society) have advised that 0-2 year olds should not have any “screen time” at all and it should be limited for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
In my session, we discussed the research versus the reality. Like anything, there has to be balance – between the use of technology (by both parents and children) and meaningful interactions (that promote positive family relationships and healthy development). I challenged participants to pick their favourite app, perhaps one they thought families would be using at home, and answer the following questions:
- Why are we using this technology or app? Is it for fun, for learning, or for some other purpose?
- What kind of time is being spent with it? Is it high quality and interactive (e.g. can we use the technology as we would use a board game) or is it time being spent alone?
- Is what we are doing developmentally appropriate for children?
- Do we have guidelines/rules about when and how long it’s used (for parents and children)? Do you have technology-free zones or times?
- What are we modelling? What are our children and families seeing?
There’s no “right” answer to any of these questions, but perhaps they can help us think more critically about our use of technology, both personally and professionally.
Ending the session, we talked about how it can be a challenge to start the discussion about technology use. Here are some great books that could help break the ice. Enjoy them and have fun as you explore how you are using technology!
Goodnight IPad by Ann Droyd
Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell