Technology at Daycare: A Brief Rant

May 26th, 2011

Talking to Grandparents
photo by chimothy27

Yesterday, I received an email from a group I support (Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood) which sought to raise the alarm about a new draft statement regarding Technology and Early Childhood, under consideration by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  The article can be found here:
I’m not always a “take action” kind of person, but this time I felt moved to respond.  I have pretty strong opinions about children and screens and have taken steps to keep my children as “unplugged” as possible.

Below is the text of an email I sent to NAEYC in response to their draft statement.

Good Afternoon,

As the mother of two young children (ages 2.5 and eight months) who attend a well-respected, NAEYC-accredited daycare facility, I read your draft statement on Technology in Early Childhood Programs with great concern. 

For me, the problem began in the statement’s very title which highlighted the expansion of the statement to include children from birth through age eight (an expansion beyond the original scope of the statement which was from ages 3 to 8).  I was shocked to see that your statement failed to align with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics that children under the age of two be discouraged from any screen time and that screen time be limited for older children.  

The idea that infants would benefit from the introduction of screens into their classrooms would be laughable if it were a joke.  As it is not a joke, the proposal instead becomes horrifying.  I want my child care provider to be playing with, holding, reading to, singing to, dancing with, and otherwise providing vital human interaction with my child.  A screen — no matter how “interactive” or flashy — will always pale in comparison to the interaction provided by a human.

Beyond this fundamental flaw in the draft statement, I was also concerned that no effort was made to address the widely-reported problem of the link between too much screen time and obesity among children.  The young people in our country already spend far too many hours each day staring at a screen.  Bringing screens more fully into their childcare settings can only further this crisis.

I also feel strongly that the draft statement should differentiate more clearly between types of media and should strongly discourage the use of television or DVDs in classrooms.  There is no question but that these passive media experiences are not only unhelpful to young children — they are actually harmful in that they stunt creative development and promote a sedentary lifestyle.

When considering the practical realities of implementing your draft statement, one has to wonder — what will the use of technology be replacing in our childcare facilities?  What will have to be removed in order to provide technological activities each day.  Will it be art projects?  A walk outside?  Story time?  Dramatic group play?  Which of those activities would we select as being less valuable to our children than an hour spent in front of a screen?

I must also reject the notion that restricting a child’s screen time will cause them to fall on the far shore of a so-called “digital divide.”  Research clearly indicates that children who are not exposed to technology early in their lives quickly pick up the necessary skills once they are introduced (in Kindergarten, for example).  The “digital divide” is an issue that applies far more realistically to wealth disparities in primary and secondary schools and the inability of poorer school districts to afford basic technological tools.  To attempt to apply this particular issue to preschool classrooms seems disingenuous.

I applaud NAEYC for tackling this issue.  As your statement recognizes — “the genie is out of the bottle, technology is here to stay.”  This is a reality of the world we live in.  However, as a leading voice in childcare best practices, it is your responsibility to put the best interests of your constituency (children) first.  Increasing their exposure to media at a young age is not in the best interest of any child.

If you would like to comment on NAEYC’s draft statement, you can do so by emailing TechandYC [at] naeyc [dot] org prior to May 31st.

One response to “Technology at Daycare: A Brief Rant”

  1. Jenny says:

    Kudos Kate! Way to go. Great email. If old codgers like me can learn to be somewhat tech-savvy, our kiddies can wait until kindergarden to be attached to a screen. As in all things, too, there is a need for balance and too many children and adults spend too many hours (as I am doing now) sitting in front of a screen. (Just bid farewell to your folks who have raided my fern garden. Not that you can tell….)

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