Young children love technology! Many tots even prefer to play with a tech device than the newest toy in their toybox.
And they’re using it at an increasingly younger age. My latest research shows that many children as young as 1, now own their own device and play with it daily. Other figures show that approximately 30% of 6 month old babies play with tablets and smartphones on a regular basis.
It seems technology is the new blankie for this generation of children!
Why children have a natural affinity for technology
One of the reasons children love technology so much is that it’s perfectly matched to what they love to do- that is, to explore!
When a child encounters something new and interesting, they’ll naturally work much like a scientist to explore it. They’ll trial a range of strategies and ideas, and work out the relationships between the different results.
This kind of problem solving approach is perfectly matched to how technology works. Devices and apps are designed so that there are never-ending avenues to explore and master.
While technology can be option overload for adults, it’s like a playground for children, full of exciting new sounds, colours and images to investigate.
Apps to help early learning
Good quality learning experiences give children the best start in life. Good educational apps can support this. However with over 75,000 education apps currently available, the difficult job for parents is working out which apps are quality. App developers can make big promises about the educational value of apps, however developers are generally not educators. Apps available for the under 5’s currently range from the good, the bad and the awful.
When searching for apps that actually provide a quality learning experience for your child, there are 3 key features to look for include:
- Age appropriate content
- Fosters creativity, problem solving and
- Promotes positive messages
Through my own findings I’ve discovered a great new app that ticks these three boxes, PlayKids. The variety of e-books, songs and videos it presents promote the developmental domains important for young children. The various programs it includes, such as The Wiggles, Mister Maker and Sesame Street support communication skills and cognitive learning. The e-books, songs and games support language development. The drawing activity encourages social skills as it extends to traditional drawing and play with their parents, friends and family. Plus the range of content the app presents positive messages about family, gender, ethnicity and relationships.
On a final note, build on strengths
Some adults are concerned that if children use technology at a very young age it will take away from their hands-on learning, developing good social skills and will lead to a sedentary lifestyle. This may be the case if a child is on a device 24/7. It could also be correct if they play with their puzzles alone in their room all day, everyday. The key is balance in what they play, who they play with, where they play, and in the toys, ideas and processes they engage with.
The trend toward embracing technology at a young age is here to stay, so the challenge is to learn how to make it work for you and your child. Avoid the many gimmicky tech products available for tots and ensure children have good quality learning experiences when on their device.
Written by Dr Joanne Orlando – A leading expert in the field of children and technology. In particular, her work focuses on the educational and social effects of children’s uses of technology.