Toddlers And Technology: Ban, Embrace, Or Balance?
In the recent Moms & Babies feature in People magazine, actress Leelee Sobieski talks about how she tries to limit her 17-month old daughter’s use of electronic media. In particular, she emphasizes how she wants to ‘strike a balance,’ so that her daughter has some exposure to technology, but is not consumed with it.
While striking a balance makes a lot of sense, it’s becoming harder to achieve that with toddlers and technology. It’s not just a case of regulating time in front of the tube or on the laptap. Walk into any restaurant in America and chances are you’ll see a two-year-old playing See and Say on an iPhone.
Is this a bad thing? Is there anything good about it? How do you decide if should ban, embrace, or balance technology?
Well, there are lots of good things that kids can learn from technology. The developmental psychologist Dr. Patricia Greenfield has suggested that electronic media can provide “informal learning environments” for kids that promote a host of visual-spatial skills.
Given that, why would letting your toddler play with an iPhone be a bad thing? Well, electronic media is not good for children when it takes the place of other important things they should be doing. And now that devices are mobile, it becomes more likely that this may happen.
For example, the natural context of language development is social in origin. There’s no substitute for talking to your child and reading to your child. Even if your toddler is using a phone or computer to learn letters or words, they still need lots of time interacting with you. They can’t press a button on a device and simulate that.
So like Ms. Sobieski, I vote for balance. To me it’s okay to hand over the iPhone to your toddler for a while if you are in a restaurant. But it’s also important to let your child grab a crayon and color and draw you a picture… and listen to you read a great picture book… and enjoy talking and laughing and bonding with you. Then at the end of the meal, if you find you’re waiting too long for the check, you can whip out the iPhone again.
What do you all think? Ban, embrace, or balance? And how do you achieve this?