Toddlers and Technology: Smart Tips for Parents

toddler using ipad
Photo By Steve Heap/shutterstock

With the influx of technology, parents have more decisions to make than ever before. Once, decisions regarding play revolved around when their child was old enough for toys with small pieces, and decisions regarding learning centered around whether or not they would choose to send their children to preschool. Now, they must decide if – and more likely, when – they will first expose their children to technology. Nowadays, this exposure happens as early as toddler age.

The decision to incorporate technology into the life of a child should be made with care.

There is already a growing trend of increased use of technology in the classroom. However, there are factors to consider, for example, the age of the child and how to use the technology will at home, as well as safety concerns regarding the use of technology. Some parents err on the side of caution while others choose to immerse their children in the world of technology from an early age, even using devices as a form of babysitter when their children are upset or unruly.

Here are some things to consider before deciding how much or how little to allow your little ones to use technological devices.

American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children and teenagers should have screen time limited to one to two hours a day. They maintain that learning and play should occur away from a digital format more than in conjunction with one. When children are allowed to play naturally without technology in hand, they build problem-solving skills and imagination as well as communication and social interaction skills. The guidelines particularly advocate limiting screen time for the very young.

Technology and Imagination

While non-digital play is best for developing imagination, that isn’t to say that children who routinely use devices won’t have thriving, active imaginations. Some interactive games and apps have been found to help with imaginative play as well. Some studies show that interactive games that engage the child in the program rather than merely giving them something to watch are beneficial tools for learning as well as building active imaginations.

Touchscreens seem to be particularly beneficial for helping young children stay engaged with activities. When toddlers can interact with the program on the tablet, phone, or computer, there seems to be more inherent value to the use of the technology. Younger children are curious about their environment, and that includes the technology within it. They are pros at pointing or swiping and seem to enjoy those activities.

Technology and Learning

In our modern age, technology is becoming a popular learning tool for students of all ages. Parents can find programs to teach skills from color recognition to higher math and a multitude of skills in between. As with imagination building, learning activities tend to be better for younger children if they are interactive.

Tablets, phones, computers, and even televisions are valuable tools for both teaching new skills and honing already learned skills. If a child is struggling with concepts or skills, there is likely an available program to help them master the concept. This is especially true for students with learning impairments. There is a growing trend of app development on tablets and iPad’s that help struggling students improve motor functions.

Read Next | Screen Time for Kids: How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

Adult Supervision

As with any activity, there should be a responsible adult monitoring the use of technology. The trend is to hand a youngster an iPad or smartphone and let them play alone, thereby using the device as a form of babysitter. However, the more that the parent is involved with the digital play, the more benefit the toddler, or any child, will get from it.

Interacting with the child while they play with technological devices teaches them the appropriate way to use the device. It helps them to understand that the device is a tool rather than a toy. Conversing with them and helping them as they play will help them to continue to build communication skills and will help them to learn how to use the technology around them safely.

Safety First

Our world is full of unknowns, and it is becoming harder by the day to keep our children safe. Just as keeping them safe on the playground is the job of the parent, so is keeping them safe when they are using technology. Games and apps that are online can have the potential to garner unwanted attention from strangers.

Supervision is only one way to ensure the children are not engaging in inappropriate communication. There are apps and programs available to help parents monitor what programs their children are using, as well as who can see that activity. Anti-virus software and anti-malware software are necessities for keeping personal tech safe from malicious programs.

Technology is a prevalent aspect of our modern society. Children born today are exposed to more different forms of technology than ever before. Whether devices are used for education, play, or only entertainment, parents should carefully monitor the role technology has in the lives of their children.

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Dominic is a multi-platform content contributor. He publishes articles and columns on a wide array of topics and industries.

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