Tech For Toddlers

tech for toddlers

 

Feeling guilty that your little one already knows how to swipe his way through your smartphone or tablet? No wonder… read the papers or watch the news and you would’ve been bombarded with news that smartphone use may damage toddler’s brains, based on a report reviewing the research into the positive and negative effects of mobile media on very young children. Jenny Radesky, the report’s lead author and a professor of paediatric development and behaviour at Boston University, has a clear message for parents of tech-savvy tots: “Don’t panic!”

Here’s how your smartphone or tablet can play a positive role in family life…

USE IT WITH YOUR TOT
Don’t let your device become a barrier
to engaging with your child. “Research
shows that when parents are more
responsive, they’re able to read their child’s
behaviour better and help them solve the
problem causing the tantrum,” says Jenny.
“Those kids then have better social and
emotional outlooks. They’re better at
making friends, for example.
“Use your smartphone to look at family
photos together, or play a game together,”
says Jenny. “Skype relatives to boost
emotional connections.”

MODERATE ITS USE
There’s a danger, in the overuse of screens as ‘shut up’ toys. “Kids need to learn how to self-regulate,” she says. “But it’s fine to give them your smartphone for a few minutes. Just set aside time in the day when everyone, parents included, puts their screens away and connects.”

DAILY TIME LIMITS UNDER-TWOS:
Zero to 15 minutes
If you do allow screen time, keep it brief and only for social activities such as using Skype or FaceTime.

AGES TWO TO FIVE:
Less than two hours More than this will displace other activities that help your tot reach important developmental milestones.

KEEP IT INTERACTIVE
It has been found that children under 30 months don’t learn as well from

 

“Research suggests that interactive media, like e-books and learn-to-read apps, can help develop preschoolers’
literacy skills too, if the child is aged two or over. “Younger children only respond to the features of the tablet
– for example, its shape, texture or ‘what happens if I bash it?’”

CHOOSE APPS CAREFULLY
Apps only offer benefi ts if they’re well-designed forms of media, without distracting features, such as invasive sound effects. One study suggests that some apps can improve preschoolers information processing, memory and impulse control, but again, only if they’re well designed.

Many apps claim to be educational, but then don’t have any input from real experts. “Whereas others involve psychologists in their development.”

THE PROS AND CONS
You can get a lot of educational experiences from technology that you can’t from a book. “I look at YouTube videos with my fi ve-year-old, who’s really into whales and space,” says Jenny. But recognise its limitations, too. “What
technology can’t teach you is how to handle it when the kid next door wants
to play with your favourite toy, “It’s how we use technology, rather than the technology’s qualities per se, that really matters.

You need the real world to learn empathy, social skills and problem solving.” Be sure to balance any screen time with
old-fashioned play. “There’s a concern that screen time might displace other activities that develop sensory and motor abilities like climbing or building,

BENEFICIAL SCREEN TIME
1 Try a game before giving it to your child.
2 Play the game or app with her at first.
3 Set a timer to limit screen time.
4 Choose apps that boost development.
5 If your child uses an app by herself, talk to her about it afterwards.
6 Relate what she sees on screen to the real world, explaining differences.

USE IT WISELY
The most important message to emerge from this report is that it’s how we use technology, rather than the technology’s qualities per se, that really matters. Mobile media, says the report, “has great potential to promote learning through joint engagement between caregivers and children.”

For a sample of great apps for your little one, see page 103.

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