Digital technology is everywhere these days, in schools, in childcare settings, and especially at home. Laptops, cell phones, tablets are part of everyday life and made easily accessible to children. I have seen several strollers on the TTC (the subway) that come equipped with an attachment or media pocket, similar to this one sold on Amazon UK. I’ve known children younger than two years old that are able to recognize and select the Netflix app, scroll through the images, and select what they want to watch. Current research has shown that young children have an almost universal exposure to digital technology, with many having their own digital devices by the time that they are four years old (Kabali, Irigoyen, Nunez-Davis, Budacki, Mohanty, Leister, Bonner, 2015).
Most people have heard the saying, “everything in moderation,” which of course applies here as well. Haughton, Aiken, and Cheevers (2015) found that while passive screen time can have negative effects on children’s developing cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical abilities, interactive screen time can have a positive impact on older children (ages 3 and up). Digital devices and interactive technology are not going anywhere, so an important aspect to focus on is how parents and families can reap the best benefits from it.
3 Ways to Use Digital Technology in a Meaningful Way
- Engaging with children through pictures and videos – there are many elements at play here; some children get excited just seeing themselves, whereas other children especially love to hear their voices and recording themselves singing. I know friends of mine with young children that enjoy using the animal filters on SnapChat to add another level of fantasy to the stories they come up for their little ones. Another idea is to give children the option to take their own photos and videos and see what they decide is worth capturing. It’s fascinating to see what they choose to focus on.
- Long distance communication – digital technology is an excellent way to foster relationships and keep in touch with family members who might be living far away. WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, and FaceTime are great apps for phone calls and video chats!
- Educational apps/websites that are actually educational – an app like Duolingo (comes in both app and website interface) is great for helping teach a second language; Meet the Insects: Forest Edition and Toca Nature are two apps that stimulate children’s curiosity and imagination; Hopscotch and Move the Turtle are specifically designed to help children develop coding skills. I would also like to make special mention of the PECS Phase III app for parents that may be interested. It’s an app designed to look like a PECS communication book for teaching picture discrimination; it does not replace the PECS book but serves as an aid to practice discrimination techniques and strategies within a single lesson.
(Image credit: me via Netflix)