Technology in the Early Years
There is no argument that technology is here to stay and that we all rely on our computers, tablets, phones etc for everything from ordering our food, booking our holidays to playing games. Our children are growing up in a technological world and can probably use these devices easier than us but as parents, we need to think about how reliant children become on electronic devices and what the time spent on them is replacing i.e. physical and social play, interaction, face to face language development and communication to name but a few.
Technology gives us an instant response whereas before smart devices, we learnt the skill of waiting (whether it was having a face to face conversation with a friend; learning to research something in a book, reading a map etc). Having technology at their fingertips, will children ever be bored and subsequently learn how to find things to entertain themselves? Is the use of technology too easy? As parents, do we use technology to “fill the gaps” and entertain our children in our busy lives?
Studies have found that too much screen time (including TV) can cause problems in several areas of children’s development i.e. disturbed sleep patterns; slower development in social and life skills; decrease in physical health and possible behavioural issues. In 2013 the US Department of Health recommended that children under two years of age should not be in front of a screen at all, and over that age the maximum leisure screen time should be no more than two hours a day (https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/feature/digital-home/how-much-screen-time-for-kids-3520917/ (further information can be found on this link).
If you do let your child use an electronic device – internet security is paramount – does your phone have parental restrictions set up? It is all too easy for a child to accidentally link to sites where they may see or hear things that are unsuitable. Check out https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety or https://www.internetmatters.org/. There are also search engines which are safer for children to use which can be googled and installed.
Technology is no doubt part of our future but it should be in conjunction with other forms of entertainment, communication, interaction, exercise etc. Why not use your device to learn new things or to play games together rather than to entertain your child in solitude or as a “babysitter”? Don’t forget that technology isn’t just electronic devices and screens – cameras; ATM’s; checkouts; digital scales; push button toys etc all have technological benefits to support children to learn about the world around them.
At Thorley Pre-School we took the decision many years ago not have screen time for the children as we want to concentrate on children’s play and social and language skills initially. However, that doesn’t mean that the children don’t have access to technology – we have lots of toys that have buttons and moving parts which is also part of technology. We have children’s cameras that they can use to take photos and talk about why things don’t work (when the batteries run out) which builds on their critical thinking skills.
Screen time can be addictive and once your child is used to using an electronic device or having the TV on in the background, it will be harder to change their habits. It is so important to instil the skills needed for socialisation, communication and interaction at an early age so hopefully they won’t become reliant on devices for their entertainment now or as they get older.
Written by Jean Palfreman
Early Years Manager