With so much access to technology and digital devices (TVs, smart phones, computers, tablets, video games, etc.), parents/caregivers might wonder about the role these tools play in a baby or toddler’s learning and development. Research suggests that when a child uses these devices interactively, as a shared experience with an adult, his development can be enhanced.  However, there is no research showing that when a child uses technology without adult interaction, it enhances his development.  Here are some guidelines for using technology with children under 3 years old, so you can make the most of their learning, while minimizing the negative effects:

  • Set limits: Children learn best through real, 3D toys and objects, and through interactions with other people. Try to limit the time your child spends on devices, and try to play with your child and engage in interactive activities.
  • Content is age-appropriate. Screen time is most beneficial if it is geared toward the child’s age group; is educational; relates to her real life experiences; and shows positive interactions between people or characters, who can serve as models for your children. Try to avoid content that is fast-paced. This has been shown to impact a child’s ability to process and plan.
  • Participate: As a parent/caregiver, talk with your child while she is using technology. For example, comment on names of the characters in a TV show or video game, talk about the plot (“He is looking for the treasure.”), ask questions about what is happening (“Where did she go?”), or talk about what the child likes (“You really love Big Bird!”). Ask your child to point to persons or objects on the screen when playing games.
  • Make connections. Relate what your child sees on TV or in games to what happens in her life. For example, name animals, colors, vehicles, or flowers when you see them in the environment (“Look, there’s a train, just like in Thomas!”).
  • Avoid technology before sleep. Video games, smart phones, or TV can be too stimulating for children before they fall asleep, and they may have a hard time calming themselves down. Try to avoid violent shows or games, which can also interfere with your child’s restful sleep.
  • Avoid screens in your child’s bedroom. This can lead to difficulty sleeping and is linked to children being overweight.
  • Monitor your own technology use. Your child might act out or seek attention/connection when you are together and you are spending time on your devices. This might lead to angry or punishing responses from you. Try to focus on positive interactions when you are with your child.

For more information on technology and children under 3 years old, please refer to:https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/318-making-good-decisions-about-television-and-screen-time-for-young-children. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1630-new-screen-time-recommendations-for-children-under-six

By, Sarehl Lomme