Perhaps spring has not sprung yet. Schools and daycares are closed and parents are working from home. Kids, parents and even pets are starting to climb the walls as we all do our part toward social distancing. In an effort to maintain family unity and indeed sanity, “to tech or not to tech” is becoming an urgent parenting question—especially when someone has a conference call!
We are bombarded with messages suggesting the mix of technology and young children has negative outcomes. Maybe but, frankly, science is still wobbly on healthy tech parameters for all ages. Very young children learn best from handling objects and interacting with real people. But, on the other hand, even young children see mom on her laptop, dad on his cell, or an older sibling playing a video game. We can’t hide out in the bathroom with our devices—especially as bathrooms are busy spaces at the moment! Technology is part of modern family life and can be a friend if used with care and moderation, especially in the hot-house context of COVID-19.
Ideally, we should be outside taking a walk together, looking for tree buds and watching migrating birds while, inside, we’re building forts, making green slime and getting creative with playdough. Weaving technology into these activities can help stretch imaginations. While young children benefit from real books and tactile toys, an older child might prefer relaxing with an e-book, watching a video or playing a video game. The trick is to get involved. Share the activity where possible; follow your child’s lead to explore ideas; and importantly, ask questions. An electronic device can be a safe distraction, so long as you monitor screen time and listen to your inner parent around technology choices. Where possible, keep device activity to family spaces like the kitchen table. In these spaces it is easier to manage time on devices, and switch from using technology to helping with meal prep help or other fun activities, like icing a birthday cake.
Screens are not a substitute for adult time, nor for unstructured play, but, in these challenging days, we are all doing our best. And right now, there’s that conference call…
*To read more about this topic see (http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/technology-early-childhood-education).