Have you seen the latest Fisher-Price iPad Apptivity Seat? It is a reclining baby bouncer seat with a mirror, with the option to slip an iPad (or other tablet device) into the mirror case and show apps and videos to babies. Yes, to babies. Very young babies that can not yet sit up.
This device has caused much controversy and raised the question: Is there an age at which children are just too young for technology? Find out in the video below.
Please be aware that I am not going to tell you what you should do. Don’t ever let anyone should on you!
I want to provide you with research-based information so that you can make informed decisions about when you feel it is appropriate to introduce technology to your child.
It is important to note that both the American Academy of Pediatrics and The Royal Australasian College of Physicians recommend no screen time before two years of age. These guidelines are based on concerns that media has a displacement effect: when children are using media they are NOT doing something else. For example, if a baby is watching TV they are not playing on a mat and exploring what their body can do. Given that babies have limited waking hours, displacement concerns are quite valid with very young children.
There are also concerns that the early introduction of media can have adverse impacts on young children, including language delays, sleep problems and compromised play (from background TV). However, these concerns are based on research with passive media (i.e. TV and DVDs) and NOT interactive media. Researchers are only just keeping pace with the more interactive forms of technology designed for young children. And the early research is promising. It appears that interactive media may be more effective in engaging young learners and fostering active learning.
So what are two considerations for parents to contemplate before they introduce technology to young children?
1. The research so far tells us that children don’t tend to learn from media before two years of age. Not even TV. In fact, we know that children don’t understand narrative structures (storylines) until atleast 18 months of age. So don’t be in a rush to introduce media. Part of the modern parenting dilemma is that parents feel compelled to introduce technology from a young age to give their child a head start, but then worry about the adverse effects of media on their development. We don’t have any evidence, as yet, to indicate that handing your child a smartphone will guarantee that they will enter Harvard. BUT, we do have some emerging evidence to suggest that interactive media have a greater learning potential for younger children, than more passive forms. The research is only just keeping up in this area so we don’t yet have a definitive answer.
TIP– there is no advantage in rushing to introduce technology.
2. The first three years of life is a critical period for your child’s brain development & their early experiences matter. 85% of the neural pathways are established in the first years of life! This is a period of time when your child is forming their basic brain architecture, so their early experiences matter. ALOT! Children at this age need some essential ingredients: (i) physical movement, (ii) face-to-face, serve-and-return interaction with real adults and (iii) exposure to language. And yes technology CAN be part of this process. It is called ‘co-viewing’ or ‘joint media engagement’. This has been shown to enhance children’s learning. For example, you might use your smartphone to look at family photos, or you might read a book app with your child, or chat with family members via Skype, or learning songs and nursery rhymes with an app or website. The important thing to note in all of these experiences is parental involvement.
TIP– Use technology with your child, not as a digital baby-sitter (where and when possible).
Tell me below in the comments, when did you introduce your child to technology? How did you know that your child was ready? Do you wish you did it earlier or later? Please share any advice you have for other parents.