The following blog post originally ran in September 2018. Continue reading for the pros and cons of technology for young children, including how it affects a child’s ability to self-soothe…and what we can do to help them!
If you’re like me, you’re one of the many parents who are amazed at how quickly toddlers and preschoolers work their way around an iPad or an iPhone. Scrolling and clicking on various apps seem to be second-nature to young children these days. With technology being an ever-prominent aspect of day-to-day life, it’s a wonder that activities such as drawing, building with blocks, and movement or dancing haven’t fallen completely by the wayside.
Unfortunately, a reliance on technology to entertain young children is apparent everywhere you go. I’m always surprised by the amount of toddlers clutching an iPhone instead of playing with a favorite toy or looking at a book while riding in a stroller. In restaurants, it’s not abnormal to see children watching videos on an iPad instead of engaging in conversations with their parents or siblings.
As a result, there has been a definite decrease, in some children, in the ability to self-soothe; that is, the ability for a child to calm himself/herself when he/she is upset. When a young child is distressed, it’s easy (and convenient) to hand them an iPhone with a favorite video to calm them down. Of course, sometimes such a distraction is needed…when, for example, you bring your child to a doctor’s appointment with you and he/she needs to stay still for a period of time. However, by using an iPhone or iPad instead of teaching children how to self-soothe, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers never acquire the tools to get through an uncomfortable situation; instead, they become reliant on an iPhone to pacify themselves.
How, then, can we help young children to learn this important skill? Singing, engaging in finger plays, reading a story, and talking quietly to your child will help him/her calm down in a natural manner. Keeping small toys, crayons/paper, and books in places such as your car, a stroller, or even your purse allow for easy access to items that can provide a distraction for your child while decreasing a reliance on technology to do so.
At The International Preschools, play-based learning remains at the core of our teaching philosophy. Throughout the school day, children of all ages engage in art, science, math, writing, reading, music, sensory-based, and movement activities that do not require the use of an app or an iPad. Technology, and our age-appropriate iPads/Technology program, are an important part of the children’s day, but is not the only part of the children’s day. We use iPads in our Green, Pre-K, and Junior K classes; stories read aloud, as well as music, are played through our iPads as well. Classroom iPads and Apple TVs are also utilized to illustrate teaching points throughout the day (i.e. a discussion about how we celebrate the new year in New York City might include a video clip of the ball drop in Times Square) as well as to utilize online kids’ yoga programs such as Cosmic Kids Yoga.
By utilizing technology in specific increments throughout the day, while incorporating regular, non-technological activities as well, children will be learn how to employ technology during parts of their day without using it to replace important social/emotional concepts.
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