The old adage claims that politics makes strange bedfellows; if so, policy sometimes makes for unusual adversaries. The exploding market of digital devices and apps directed at (and marketed to) young children has generated a policy debate that finds friends with common interests on opposing sides.
With the publication of their January 2012 Joint Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College, two of the country’s leading authorities on developmentally appropriate practice, weighed in with a middle-ground position. Rejecting the position of those who advocate complete screen-time bans as extending to any media (not just passive TV viewing or the like), the Position Statement is a carefully considered look at a wide range of “technology” and its potential repercussions–and benefits–at the full scope of ages from birth through age 8.
Instead, the Statement limits its recommendation for an outright embargo on screen time to children 2 and under. For older children, the Statement advocates for careful, limited use of a variety of media, focusing on how the technology is used, including: a familiar and sound emphasis on interactivity; support for an emergent approach to children’s own interests; and use of technology as an additional tool in the box for educators and parents, not a replacement for more traditional methods.
Last year, the perspectives of the educators in our Preschool 2 (then Young Threes) classroom were included in an article in Education Week magazine on the competing perspectives on this issue. We agree with some arguments of the advocates of strict limitations on new media use with young children, particularly with regard to manipulative commercialization aimed at children and the slippery slope that can come with screen time (away from interactivity and relationship-building, toward passive viewing and disengagement); see the comments to the online article for some well-argued concerns. However, we are cautiously optimistic about the promise of technology as a series of positive and unique tools that can bring much good if used in a constructive and intentional way.
For some other resources on the issue, please click here to visit the site of the Pittsburgh NAEYC chapter, PAEYC, with a brief summary of their work on Digital Media Literacy in early childhood. We are pleased to be a part of this work, with our Preschool 2 Lead Educators, Maren Herman and Rachel Anderson, creating developmentally-appropriate, emergent curriculum materials that are tied to the PA Early Learning Standards. Through PAEYC’s Digital Bridge Project, in collaboration with PAEYC and local nonprofit Computer Reach, Maren and Rachel are developing curriculum and delivering related professional development to several participating early childhood programs. Many thanks to PAEYC and the primary funder of the Digital Bridge Project, PNC Grow Up Great, for their support and collaboration on this work. Please see below for a link to the May 2013 Education Week article on the debate.
Proper Role of Ed-Tech in Pre-K a Rising Issue, Education Week online edition originally posted May 7, 2013. Available at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/05/08/30early_ep.h32.html?tkn=VWTFZ8CVv60W%2F8ws9pSf476jFgwHxfrYFfCa&cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1 [Accessed 06-09-2014] (also published in May 8, 2013 print edition of Education Week under the title, “Ed-Tech’s Proper Role Poses Puzzles for Pre-K”).
Photograph by Jeff Swensen for Education Week;
© 2013 Editorial Projects in Education