Early Childhood

Panel Explores Thoughtful Use of Digital Technology for Young Children

By Christina A. Samuels — December 13, 2013 1 min read
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Just in time for parents beseiged with images of bouncy seats and potty seats with built-in holders for tablets, the nonprofit research group Child Trends hosted an panel Friday on how parents and early childhood educators can make informed decisions about using digital technology and television with young children.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia; Lisa Guernsey, the director of the Early Childhood Initiative at the New America Foundation in Washington, and Rosemarie Truglio, the senior vice president of education and research at Sesame Workshop, were, unsurprisingly, highly negative on the prospect of placing infants in a bouncy chair in front of an iPad. “Horrible,” Truglio said.

But when it comes to other uses of digital media, they offered a nuanced view on the often-quoted recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which say “television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2.” What’s also important, they said, is to weigh the types of media that children are consuming: they may be appropriate if they’re actively engaging children, if those activities are meaningful for young children, and if they offer a way for children and parents to interact. Also important, they say, is the response of an individual child: some may be mesmerized by a screen, others may not find it quite as attractive.

In response to a question, Truglio said that she felt that there was no cut-off age in which digital technology should be used, if the interaction is appropriate: “If a parent is using a screen with a 6-month old, and they’re looking at family photos or a simple e-book, that’s not bad,” she said.

Said Hirsh-Pasek: “We’re all suggesting that parents use this as a platform or a tool, not as an end in itself.”

Guernsey offered two resources specifically for early-childhood educators: Digital Decisions: Using the Right Technology for Early Childhood Education and Teaching in the Digital Age: Smart Tools for Age 3 to Grade 3. The hour-long panel discussion can also be viewed below (the presentation starts around minute 18).

Photo:Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad device, by Fisher-Price

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.