What’s your opinion about technology in early education? Do you think the benefits of technology for children outweigh the possible side effects of too much screen time? As Warren Buckleitner, PhD, points out in Buckleitner’s Guide to Using Tablets with Young Children, finding the right mix of apps and grass stains for children can be subjective, but the 2012 joint position statement from NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media provides some guidance. As one of the many advisors to the position statement, Buckleitner believes that the key guidelines focus on three words: access, balance, and support (ABS).

ABS

Using the ABS formula while children are still young will help them develop the skills they need to one day record and edit a video for a class project, use online banking, post prom pictures on social media, and much more. It also gives you an opportunity to teach them when not to post something.

  • A is for access. Keep in mind that children need to touch technology in order to gain technology competence. It’s important for preschools and other early learning environments to provide access to children who don’t have access to technology at home. Playing with digital cameras, downloading apps, using laptops and tablets, and playing video game systems help children learn how to wiggle a cord to make something work, find a Wi-Fi signal, and more.
  • B is for balance. Make sure children have a healthy diet of technology. Screens are abstract and symbolic, so screen time should be balanced with real and concrete activities. Knowing when to set a limit and when to play along is essential to maintaining that balance.
  • S is for support. Young children need experts in their lives who can tune into their abilities and interests. Parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, librarians, and other people in children’s lives can serve as fearless technology role models, bedtime story readers, and app curators.

Strategies for Limiting Screen Time

When a child has his or her attention focused solely on a screen, do you ever stop and try to figure out why the child is glued to the screen? Make an effort to observe the rhythm of play so you understand the task the child is working on. You may even want to play along or offer your help. Here are a few tips that can help you go with the flow while setting limits for screen time:

  • Give the child advance notice that their screen time is almost up, and be sure to follow through. You may want to use a timer so the child can visualize the time remaining. Remember that the credibility of your words will fade if you give a warning and don’t stick to it.
  • Put the time limit into the context of whatever activity children are immersed in. Try telling them that they have time for two more puzzles, one more level, etc.
  • Ask them to push the button to stop the action instead of doing it yourself. Having children push the power button on the remote, the home button on an iPad, or the pause button on a video game, gives them an active role in ending the activity and helps them internalize the process.

Children using technology is inevitable, but it’s the job of educators and parents to find the right balance of screen time and real world experiences. We offer a variety of technology options for early childhood classrooms that can help you provide the access, balance, and support needed when it comes to children and technology. Be sure to check out the Inspire Ultra and Plus, the Engage-2, and the Shine-2 Tablet. You’ll also find additional tips and resources on incorporating technology into the classroom in the Technology category of our Insights and Inspirations section.