Science Made Simple #2: All You Need To Know About Technology and Little Kids

This article was co-authored with Christine Elgersma from Common Sense Media and and Purva Gujar from Inceptive

Technology and mobile devices are now an inseparable part of our lives. 70% of parents allow their toddlers and young children to use their iPad. While children’s levels of overall media use has stayed the same since 2011, mobile technology now comprises 35% of screen time, compared to 4% in 2011.

This growing use has cause for concern among parents who fear that there may be negative repercussions of giving their children too much screen time. While it is inevitable that children will use technology, this presents a valuable opportunity for parents to introduce it in a safe way.

At Oyalabs, we decided to team up with Christine from Common Sense Media and Purva from Inceptive to answer the most pressing questions that parents submitted during our April’s ParentTech Meetup in San Francisco.

Read on for the answers.

How much screen time is okay?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following recommendations for babies and toddlers:

· Under 18 months: Avoid screen time
· 18–24 months: Ensure that the content they watch is of high quality. Ideally, parents should be watching with them, and interacting with their child.
· 24–60 months: No more than one hour per day of high quality content with active parent involvement.

One study suggests that how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is one of the strongest predictors of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction.

On the other hand when properly used, technology can increase access to high quality early learning resources, strengthen the bonds between family members and engage children in key skills such as play, self-expression and computational thinking.

This is particularly relevant in developing countries, where technology and electronic devices has allowed greater access to educational resources for students that may face poverty and geographical isolation.

Other studies suggest children under the age of 22 months learn words less effectively from TV than from interactions with people.

According to Christine Elgersma, a mother, teacher and now an editor at Common Sense Media, there are a few things we can do to check if an app is safe for our little ones.

How do I know if an app is appropriate for my child?

· Check if educators were involved in development. Apps such as Homer: Kids Learn to Read, and Big Bird’s Words are based on research and educational principles. See here for a comprehensive list of apps that work on a range of different skills from art to coding, to problem solving and social-emotional learning.

App should provide feedback and adapts to a kid’s level.

· If a piece of paper or real-life toys/games would work just as well, the screen time probably isn’t worth it.

· When in doubt, go with well known, reputable resources like Sesame Street and most PBS shows/apps. Some of these are backed by independent research to prove learning potential and appropriateness.

How can I use technology in a constructive way?

· As a parent, you should be actively involved with your children during iPad activity. Talk to your child about what they’re seeing on-screen! Parent-child interaction has shown to be robustly associated with healthy language, as well as emotional development.

· Connect what your child sees on the device to their everyday experiences.

· Avoid use of gadgets during meal times — mealtimes are a great opportunity for social interaction and language building.

· Set a good example — be more aware of how much time you spend on your tablet or smartphone around your child.

According to Ann Densmore, an expert on speech and language development, the goal of child interaction with screen based games should be to help the child learn a concept, and formulate and organize ideas. “Good apps or games should facilitate conversation between parents and children during this play, not get in the way of it.” Ideally, adults should be present to provide modelling and to help the child grasp the concept, rather than the child becoming distracted by exciting graphics.

How can I keep my child safe when they’re online?

· Really young children shouldn’t be flying solo online. Sit with them, get involved!

· Using Safe Search and device features like Guided Access (on iOs devices) can help.

· Have a conversation with your child about staying safe and kind online. Run some scenarios and talk about what they should do, “What if someone you don’t know asks for your picture or personal information?”

How can I get my children off devices in a fun way?

· Set general expectations for your children: What are the rules? Who do the devices belong to? What are the consequences if they don’t follow the rules?

· Using a visual timer sets expectations with little ones who can’t read a clock.

· With younger children or toddlers, use play or pretend. For instance, “Time to put the iPad to sleep. Close the cover to tuck it in! now we need to tiptoe to the table!”


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