How do you know if technology is age appropriate for your child? How young is too young for technology? Experts have stated that appropriate technology and interactive media usage can have a positive impact on early learning and development. However, this is only true when recommend guidelines are followed. If technology is used without guidance and education, it can actually interfere with learning and development. Guidelines include limiting passive screen time, such as TV, particularly for children ages 2 through 5. Furthermore, children under the age of 2 should avoid passive screen time altogether.
Research shows that children often learn best through creative play and through interactions with their teachers, caregivers, peers and environment. However, it has also been determined that interactive media can be a supportive learning tool, if provided the right context. Technology use should be an active, rather than passive, experience. It should expand on other educational practices, as a way to enhance the child’s experience of learning. For example, children can use digital cameras to photograph their latest creations, or internet searching to find pictures of different types of flowers. Educators and caregivers are encouraged to use participatory technology such as apps, e-books, interactive white boards, rather than television programs or videos. The youngest children in particular need encouragement and feedback with their technology usage. Technology is less valuable as a learning tool for these children when it is not supported by a relationship with an adult caregiver.
The importance of active versus passive technology is underlined by research which links passive technology use and childhood obesity, sleep problems, and attention problems. However, research has also shown positive links between media technology usage and learning reading. When determining if something is an appropriate technology tool for your child, you must be willing to ask questions. Is the technology active or passive? Will it enhance or build on an already established educational tool? How does it fit into the context of their larger learning experience? How much time will they spend with this technology? While experts have yet to agree on specific limitations, they do agree that the amount of screen time is going to be increasing, and that developmentally appropriate limitations must be set.
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