JUDICIOUS USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS
Modern technology like TV, computers, the Internet and video games are now considered essential for communication, social networking, partnerships, entertainment and managing daily life. Therefore, modern technology is also producing a new generation of cognitive skills. These skills involve the development of visual-spatial skills, such as iconic representation and spatial visualization.
Young children in particular are increasingly comfortable living in a world of digital media. They are growing up with digital devices that are rapidly becoming the instruments of culture at home, at school, at work and in the community (NAEYC, 2012). Consequently, schools must adapt to these changes, taking advantage of new strengths in visual-spatial intelligence and cognitive processes: problem-solving, critical thinking and imagination (Greenfield, 2009). In addition, technology and digital media can support learning and interactions.
The power of modern technologies relies on the preference for visually presented information. All visuallyoriented digital media programs are able to attract and maintain the attention of children (Perry, 2009). They allow children to interact with great amounts of information from within their classrooms and homes, and connect children from all over the world (Riel, 1994).
However, many of the modern technologies are very passive (noninteractive) media – for example, television, DVDs and streaming media like YouTube. They do not provide children with quality social, emotional, cognitive or physical experiences.
Children need social interaction and reallife experiences with real people to truly benefit from modern technologies in their classrooms and homes. This cannot happen if the child is sitting for hours passively in front of the screen. The design of the curriculum and social setting are critical. Children need to have an integrated
and well-balanced set of experiences that can handle social-emotional development as well as develop their intellectual ability.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (2009,2010, 2011a, 2011b) and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity (2010) discourage any amount of screen time for children under 2 years old and recommend limiting screen time to 1-2 hours per day for children above 2 years old. The recommendations above are also related to factors that contribute to childhood obesity.
On the contrary, there are many positive qualities to modern technology that are interactive and beneficial for young children. Interactive media such as computers, smart boards, touch screen pads and any other interactive digital devices allow the child to develop their curiosities, problem-solving and independent thinking skills. Children are natural “manipulators” of the world (Perry, 2009); they learn through controlling the movement and interactions of objects in their world.
With digital devices that allow interaction, children can control pace and activity, solve problems and make things happen on screen. Furthermore, they are able to do any of those activities repeatedly with no limit.
To answer concerns about the impact of technology on children’s social interaction, Prof Sugata Mitra (2015) argued that children working side-by-side on one computer can encourage positive social interaction among them. Asking children to share when working with one computer can facilitate the sharing of ideas, problem solving and
In conclusion, balance and proper timing are the keys to healthy early childhood programs. Parents and teachers must act as the facilitators of children’s learning (Perry, 1997). Naturally, they possess the ability to provide the right kinds of experience at the right time for children.
Before the digital age, children enhanced their cognitive experience by sitting together with their families to play cards, Jenga, Monopoly, The Monkey on The Tree, etc. In this interaction, children use an externalizing object, which is the game; this can also happen with the emerging modern technologies.
Parents and teachers should take advantage of the interactive qualities of modern technology to promote valuable experiences to young children. The key to a healthy modern experience for early childhood is to ensure that we use technology to improve young children’s social interactions and holistic development and expand their view of the world.