As I embark on a journey through technology in the classroom, I feel it’s important to recognize my biases on the topic. As an early childhood educator, I feel strongly that young children learn best through concrete interactions with the real-world. Most importantly, children learn and benefit from the relationships in their lives. With these tenets in mind, I am skeptical of the benefits of screen use for very young children and find myself advocating for less screen use for toddlers and preschoolers.
Last quarter I spent time researching screen use and found that there is little evidence that screens benefit the learning of young children, mostly due to the fact that children under the age of three are still developing concrete thinking and therefore have trouble applying what they learn from a screen to the real world. However, there has been some evidence that screen use in older preschoolers does help their executive function skills, especially their working memory. One factor that has been examined a lot in these studies is the ways in which children interact with screens. They have found that children learn the best from screens when they are watching with an adult. It is the relationship that is important to the child’s learning.
Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics published a report that discussed selecting developmentally appropriate toys for children in our digital era. They urged parents to use more physical toys and books, especially with their young children, as a way to promote healthy growth and development.
While my biases are that screens are not the best method to teach young children and screen use should be limited with this age group, I recognize that there are also great uses for technology in classrooms. As a parent educator, I would like to use technology more effectively with my adult students. I think it can be a useful tool to communicate and share information. I’m sure there are many other ways it can be beneficial that I have not yet encountered and I will keep an open mind to its possibilities.
One thought on “My Biases”
I so appreciate how you’re doing research and thinking so carefully about all of this. Yes, yes, yes to the great evidence that as with so many things with young children, talking with caring adults is so vital. Yes yes yes to developmentally appropriate toys.
One of the things that I have appreciated about recent research and discussion is the focus on whether a child is thriving: if they’re outside, getting exercise, engaging socially, developing cognitively. And if yes, then whether there is also some time on screens that may be less that fully valuable is ok and families shouldn’t feel guilt or worry …
I have also appreciated the shift in these conversations from “screen time” to “what is being done with the screens”. We don’t talk about “paper” and make decisions about whether “paper” is good or bad. We talk about quality books and developmentally appropriate writing and drawing tools. Paper also encompasses terrible worksheets and terrible books and time-sucking games or awful coloring books…. and we miss the conversation about what is of value for children if we simply talk instead about paper/ no paper.
If we couldn’t say “screen” how would we talk with more specificity about what small children do when the medium is digital and what is or isn’t of value there. Or is it all bad? How do we know?