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Technology use in young children is somewhat new territory, historically speaking. Centuries existed where parents didn’t have to worry about the dangers of the internet or the ill effects of too much screen time. Now that they do, it’s up to each parent to create a responsible environment for their kids to explore.

Technology and Young Children in the Digital Age, a recently published report from the Erikson Institute explored technology use in young children by surveying a national pool of 1,000 parents with children age 6 or younger. They found that an astounding 85 percent of parents let their kids use technology. A large majority of the parents questioned also said they engaged in technology with their kids for up to two hours a day. While television was reported as the most widely used electronic, tablets, phones, and computers were also utilized.

Many parents surveyed believe their children benefit from technology use as it helps with their growth and development. Even though these benefits may exist, parents are still concerned about the pitfalls of technology. With this in mind, the best plan of action for parents may be to actually have a plan and not just let kids aimlessly navigate and indulge in content at their whim.

For parents looking for guidance on how to cultivate a healthy relationship between their kids and devices, these tips, reprinted from the experts of Erikson Institute’s Technology in Early Childhood Center, will help you get started.

  • Parents have many important roles in helping children use technology in healthy ways. Learning how to manage, monitor, and mentor around technology use for young children begins with paying attention to how adults use technology in the home.
  • Relationships matter most in a child’s early years. Explore technology with your young children and take the time to discover together. Joint exploration promotes learning. Find interactive content that appeals to your child’s interests and let him or her learn how to make decisions about how to explore. Help your child tell a story or create art or discover a new topic using a camera, computer, or other device. Digital tools we use every day can be powerful tools for family engagement.
  • Rethink screen time and manage its use. Young children have access to a variety of screen media today, but not all screens are created equal. Shift your focus from how much they watch to what they watch. Focus on the quality of the content and level of engagement and emphasize opportunities for interactions, relationships, and social emotional learning.
  • Healthy technology use is about balance. Strive for a healthy balance of technology engagement with your children and for parent-child experiences that require no technology at all. Use technology to support the joy of learning—to engage, empower, and inspire your child.
  • Manage your own technology use thoughtfully. Young children learn habits by watching the adults around them, so model healthy technology habits. Manage the impact on family time. It can include screen time but children also need family time without screens and digital devices. Plan to unplug. Ask, “What can we do together when we turn our devices of?” Encourage playtime, including outdoor time, when no technology is required.

For the full report, please visit: Technology and Young Children in the Digital Age

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