Take care with technology and young children

Published 10:52 am Saturday, May 12, 2018

By Amy Baskin

Director of Community Education

Technology is part of our everyday lives and will continue to be a significant part of our children’s lives. Using technology with children can be a great tool, but used in excess or incorrectly can have harmful effects for their development and future.

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Research from the American Association of Pediatrics and the University of Wisconsin-Madison show us that technology is being used too early and too much by our children. The research found that children as young as nine months can shut down when a cell phone chimes because they know that they will lose the attention of their caregiver. They also found that mothers using cell phones while nursing their baby instead of interacting with their child may be missing important cues from their babies and the limited eye contact with the baby during this time may lead to long term developmental issues. Children who use handheld screens, smartphones, tablets and electronic games before they begin to talk may be at a higher risk for speech delays and children exposed to violent programming at a young age are more likely to use aggression to solve problems.

Another study at Temple University revealed that mobile technology is creating unpredictable interruptions to parent-child interactions that affect learning outcomes of children. In this study, mothers taught their two-year-old child two novel words one at a time. One teaching period was interrupted by a cell phone call. Children learned the word when the teaching was not interrupted, but not when it was interrupted.

What does this mean for families? It means that screen time with children should be monitored. The American Association of Pediatrics have recommendations for media use with children.

•For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.

•For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

•For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.

•Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free    locations at home, such as bedrooms.

•Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

Technology is a wonderful tool that makes our lives easy and convenient, but it should not replace face to face interactions, play time, reading, coloring, games and other opportunities to teach our children about the world around them. Children need to practice and learn the skill of waiting and observing their surroundings.  The next time you are tempted to turn on the screen or hand your child a phone, resist and pull out a book or a coloring sheet instead.

When you are with your child, ask them what they see. You will be amazed at the way your child sees the world and you will be enriching their vocabulary and their ability to learn.