Screen time. It’s a big issue in every household with kids. Is all screen time equal? How much is too much? Can you have too little? Can you just avoid technology altogether for pre-school children? Can apps really teach your kids anything? It’s a tough road to navigate and new research is coming out on this topic on a regular basis.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children, in collaboration with the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, have worked to put together comprehensive guidelines for technology use with young children. It’s clear that, from a pre-school stage, children need to become familiar and comfortable with technology. Before they are in second grade, they will need to be somewhat proficient with a mouse, track pad and keyboard. The question is, how best and when to expose them.
In the pre-school age group (obviously our main focus,) it is important to give children exposure to touch screen technology that provides appropriate interactive experiences that can allow them to feel successful with the technology. Supervision and content review by a parent or teacher is key. The goal is to try to avoid commercialism as much as is possible.
This is also an important age to introduce the mouse – not an easy thing to master for a three year old. But again, the goal is to find applications or websites that allow for the child to feel success and a sense of accomplishment with their activities. There will be frustration, of course, but some hands on attention from an adult will help them to progress well with mouse usage.
Another way to incorporate technology is via photos and videos. What child doesn’t love to see themselves on the camera screen immediately after the photo is taken. By sharing photos and videos of the children with them on the computer, it expands their comfort and familiarity with media usage. This can be expanded to include multi-media projects where the children create and/or narrate stories from pictures of themselves and their family, classmates or friends.
So how much screen time should they have? While there’s no scientific answer to that (yet,) it is clear that at these early ages, it should still be at a minimum. Developing their offline abilities is more crucial at this stage. But technology should be incorporated into their weekly learning experiences. It should be fun and positioned as another way for them to express their creativity. It’s another great opportunity for families and classrooms to share, learn together and have a great time.
Note: The study referenced here can be found in its entirety at: