The “National Association for the Education of Young Children” and the “Fred Rogers Center” have come out with a new position paper on technology use in the classroom. The NAEYC’s is a highly influential organization, with nearly 80,000 members (according to their website). “NAEYC convenes thought leaders, teachers and other practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders and sets standards of excellence for programs and teachers in early childhood education.” Their position paper are important because teachers and schools all over the country take their recommendation into consideration when deciding how to teach and what tools to use in the classroom.
Last year’s position paper was very pro-screen time in the school and daycare centers. The CCFC presented a letter at the yearly NAEYC conference signed by 70 doctors and experts making a number of criticisms and recommendations for improvement.
The NAEYC seems to have taken this letter and other public pressure into consideration. Their latest position paper “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8” is much more balanced. Nevertheless, they still fall short in a number of ways.
How should the CCFC respond? That is the question that the CCFC is putting to their members and to the public. Here is your chance to influence CCFC to pressure the NAEYC to make stronger recommendations on limits to screen-time.
You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s my letter to the CCFC:
Subject: NAEYC Technology Report
Regarding: the NAEYC report “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8”
On page 10 of the report “Prohibit the passive use of television, videos, DVDs, and other non-interactive technologies and media in early childhood programs for children younger than 2, and discourage passive and non-interactive uses with children ages 2 through 5.” Kudos to the NAEYC, they actually go further than the AAP (which recommends up to 1 to 2 hours per day of TV/video for children older than two). From what I’ve read of the research passive, non-interactive media (i.e. TV and videos) really are bad for cognitive development (although they are educational). So I applaud the NAEYC for coming out so forcefully against them.
But are interactive technologies good for kids 0-8? Who knows. I haven’t heard of any studies looking specifically at the cognitive effects of interactive technologies on very young children. Studies looking at the effects on teenagers and adults, find that they do improve cognitive abilities, but that many people find them extremely addictive.
The NAEYC definitely goes too far when they argue that “Adults have a responsibility to expose children to, and to model, developmentally appropriate and active uses of digital tools, media, and methods of communication and learning in safe, healthy, acceptable, responsible, and socially positive ways.” Wow, so here they are arguing that daycares and pre-schools that don’t include technology are shirking their duty. It’s interesting that in Finland, kids don’t learn to read until they are 7 and yet they rank near the top in reading skills compared to other developed countries. Just because a child 0-8 isn’t yet learning how to do arts & crafts on a tablet, or play video games doesn’t mean they won’t effectively learn tech skills when they get a little older.
Reading is an very important skill that all children should learn. But when is it developmentally appropriate to teach reading? Kids need to learn how to crawl before they learn how to run. Will providing extremely engaging interactive media at such a young age make them less able to tolerate and deal with boredom? Will playing with other children, or walking in the forest, become boring in comparison? These are questions that need to be answered before wholeheartedly recommending interactive technology. And they especially need to be answered before castigating those educators who choose not to use these interactive technologies with very young children.
Considering how forcefully the NAEYC came out against TV/video’s I hate to be critical at all. But even if it turns out that interactive technology is good for young children, they still need to recommend upper-limit time restrictions. From the report (page 5): “Technology and media should not replace activities such as creative play, real-life exploration, physical activity, outdoor experiences, conversation, and social interactions that are important for children’s development.” But time is zero-sum. Without upper-limit time restrictions, interactive technology will tend to crowd out all the other activities that we know are essential for healthy development.
P.S. And thanks CCFC for all the hard work that you do standing up for kids.