Technology And Interactive Media As Tools In Early .

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P O S I T I O N S TAT E M E N TADOPTED JANUARY 2012A joint position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children andthe Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent CollegeTechnology and Interactive Mediaas Tools in Early Childhood ProgramsServing Children from Birth through Age 8Television was once the newest technologyin our homes, and then came videos andcomputers. Today’s children are growingup in a rapidly changing digital age that isfar different from that of their parents and grandparents. A variety of technologies are all around us inour homes, offices, and schools. When used wisely,technology and media can support learning andrelationships. Enjoyable and engaging shared experiences that optimize the potential for children’slearning and development can support children’srelationships both with adults and their peers.Thanks to a rich body of research, we know muchabout how young children grow, learn, play, anddevelop. There has never been a more important time toapply principles of development and learning when considering the use of cutting-edge technologies and newmedia. When the inteInteractive media refers to digitalgration of technologyand interactive mediaand analog materials, including softin early childhoodware programs, applications (apps),programs is builtbroadcast and streaming media, someupon solid developchildren’s television programming,mental foundations,e-books, the Internet, and other formsand early childhoodof content designed to facilitate activeprofessionals areaware of both theand creative use by young children andchallenges and theto encourage social engagement withopportunities, educaother children and adults.tors are positionedto improve programquality by intentionally leveraging the potential of technology and media forthe benefit of every child.This statement is intended primarily to provide guidance tothose working in early childhood education programs servingchildren from birth through age 8. Although not developed asa guide for families in the selection and use of technology andinteractive media in their homes, the information here may behelpful to inform such decisions.NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center do not endorse or recommend software, hardware, curricula, or other materials.1

This 2012 position statement reflects the ever-changingdigital age and provides guidance for early childhoodeducators about the use of technology and interactivemedia in ways that can optimize opportunities for youngchildren’s cognitive, social, emotional, physical, andlinguistic development. In this position statement, thedefinition of technology tools encompasses a broad rangeof digital devices such as computers, tablets, multitouchscreens, interactive whiteboards, mobile devices, cameras, DVD and music players, audio recorders, electronictoys, games, e-book readers, and older analog devicesstill being used such as tape recorders, VCRs, VHS tapes,record and cassette players, light tables, projectors, andmicroscopes.Throughout the process of researching and writing thisposition statement, we have been guided by the legacy ofFred Rogers. By appropriately and intentionally using thetechnology of his day—broadcast television—to connectwith each individual child and with parents and families,Fred Rogers demonstrated the positive potential of usingtechnology and media in ways that are grounded in principles of child development.printed word. The shiftto new media literaciesThe term digital literacy isand the need for digitalused throughout this statementliteracy that encomto encompass both technologypasses both technologyand media literacy.and media literacy willcontinue to shape theworld in which youngchildren are developingand learning (Linebarger & Piotrowski 2009; Flewitt 2011;Alper n.d.).The prevalence of electronic media in the lives of youngchildren means that they are spending an increasing numberof hours per week in front of and engaged with screens of allkinds, including televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets,handheld game devices, and game consoles (Common SenseMedia 2011). The distinction among the devices, the content,and the user experience has been blurred by multitouchscreens and movement-activated technologies that detect andrespond to the child’s movements. With guidance, these various technology tools can be harnessed for learning and development; without guidance, usage can be inappropriate and/orinterfere with learning and development.Statement of the IssuesThere are concernsabout whether youngchildren should haveaccess to technology andscreen media in earlychildhood programs.Several professional andpublic health organizations and child advocacygroups concerned withchild development andhealth issues such asobesity have recommended that passive, noninteractive technology andscreen media not be usedin early childhood programs and that there beno screen time for infantsand toddlers. NAEYC andthe Fred Rogers Centerare also concerned aboutchild development andchild health issues andhave considered themcarefully when developingthis position statement.Technology and interactive media are here to stay.Young children live in a world of interactive media.They are growing up at ease with digital devices thatare rapidly becoming the tools of the culture at home,at school, at work, and in the community (Kerawalla& Crook 2002; Calvert et al. 2005; National Institute forLiteracy 2008; Buckleitner 2009; Lisenbee 2009; Berson& Berson 2010; Chiong & Shuler 2010; Couse & Chen2010; Rideout, Lauricella, & Wartella 2011). Technologytools for communication, collaboration, social networking, and user-generated content have transformedmainstream culture. In particular, these tools havetransformed how parents and families manage theirdaily lives and seek out entertainment, how teachers usematerials in the classroom with young children and communicate with parents and families, and how we deliverteacher education and professional development (Rideout, Vandewater, & Wartella 2003; Roberts & Foehr 2004;Rideout & Hamel 2006; Rideout 2007; Foundation forExcellence in Education 2010; Gutnick et al. 2010; Barronet al. 2011; Jackson 2011a, 2011b; Wahi et al. 2011). Thepace of change is so rapid that society is experiencinga disruption almost as significant as when there was ashift from oral language to print literacy, and again whenthe printing press expanded access to books and the2Non-interactive media includecertain television programs,videos, DVDs, and streamingmedia now available on a variety of screens. Noninteractivetechnology tools and mediaare not included in the definitionand description of effective andappropriate use in this statement unless they are usedin ways that promote activeengagement and interactions.Noninteractive media can leadto passive viewing and overexposure to screen time foryoung children and are notsubstitutes for interactive andengaging uses of digital mediaor for interactions with adultsand other children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (2009, 2010, 2011a,2011b) and the White House Task Force on ChildhoodObesity (2010) discourage any amount or type of screenmedia and screen time for children under 2 years of ageand recommend no more than one to two hours of totalscreen time per day for children older than 2 (Funk et al.2009; Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood 2010).The Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies (Birch,Parker, & Burns 2011; Institute of Medicine of the NationalAcademies 2011) recommend that child care settings limitscreen time (including television, videos, digital media,video games, mobile media, cell phones, and the Internet)for preschoolers (age 2 through 5) to fewer than 30 minutesper day for children in half-day programs or less than onehour per day for those in full-day programs. The reportfurther encourages professionals to work with parentsto limit screen time to fewer than two hours per day forchildren age 2 through 5. These recommendations to limitchildren’s exposure to screen time are related to two factors potentially contributing to early childhood obesity: thefood and beverage marketing that children may experiencewhen they are watching television or interacting with othermedia and the amount of overall screen time to whichthey are exposed (Birch, Parker, & Burns 2011; Institute ofMedicine of the National Academies 2011). The Let’s Move!Child Care initiative recommends that caregivers allow noscreen time for children under 2 years of age. For children2 and older, caregivers are encouraged to limit screen timeto no more than 30 minutes per week during child care,and parents and caregivers are advised to work togetherto limit children to one to two hours of quality screen timeper day (Schepper 2011; White House 2011). Early childhood educators need to be aware of all these concerns andunderstand the critical role that they as educators play inmediating technology and media use and screen time foryoung children.own criteria for best usage (Kleeman 2010). The challenge forearly childhood educators is to make informed choices thatmaximize learning opportunities for children while managingscreen time and mediating the potential for misuse and overuse of screen media, even as these devices offer new interfacesthat increase their appeal and use to young children.There is conflicting evidence on the value of technology in children’s development. Educators and parentshave been cautioned about the negative impact of background television (Kirkorian et al. 2009; AAP 2011b), passive use of screen media (AAP 2011b), and the relationshipbetween media use and child obesity (White House TaskForce on Childhood Obesity 2010; Birch, Parker, & Burns2011; Schepper 2011). Possible negative outcomes havebeen identified, such as irregular sleep patterns, behavioralissues, focus and attention problems, decreased academicperformance, negative impact on socialization and language development, and the increase in the amount of timeyoung children are spending in front of screens (Cordes& Miller 2000; Appel & O’Gara 2001; Christakis et al. 2004;Anderson & Pempek 2005; Rogow 2007; Vandewater et al.2007; Brooks-Gunn & Donahue 2008; Common Sense Media2008, 2011; Lee, Bartolic, & Vandewater 2009; Campaign fora Commercial-Free Childhood 2010; DeLoache et al. 2010;Tomopoulos et al. 2010; AAP 2011a, 2011b).However, research findings remain divided and thereforecan be confusing to educators and parents. Some children’smedia researchers have found no evidence to supportthe belief that screen media are inherently harmful. Theevidence from public broadcasting’s Ready To Learn initiative suggests that when television shows and electronicresources have been carefully designed to incorporate whatis known about effective reading instruction, they serve aspositive and powerful tools for teaching and learning (Pasnik et al. 2007; Neuman, Newman, & Dwyer 2010; Corporation for Public Broadcasting 2011). Similarly, Wainwrightand Linebarger (2006) concluded that while critics haveissued many warnings against television and computersand their negative effects on children’s learning, the mostlogical conclusion to be drawn from the existing scholarlyliterature is that it is the educational content that matters—not the format in which it is presented (Wainwright& Linebarger 2006). In short, there are some educationally valuable television shows, websites, and other digitalmedia, and there are some that are less valuable or eveneducationally worthless.The amount of time children spend with technology andmedia is important (Christakis & Garrison 2009; Vandewater & Lee 2009; Tandon et al. 2011), but how children spendtime with technology must also be taken into account whenAll screens are not created equal. The proliferation ofdigital devices with screens means that the precise meaningof “screen time” is elusive and no longer just a matter of howlong a young child watches television, videos, or DVDs. Timespent in front of a television screen is just one aspect of howscreen time needs to be understood and measured. Childrenand adults now have access to an ever-expanding selection ofscreens on computers, tablets, smartphones, handheld gamingdevices, portable video players, digital cameras, video recorders, and more. Screen time is the total amount of time spentin front of any and all of these screens (Common Sense Media2011; Guernsey 2011c). As digital technology has expanded inscope beyond linear, non-interactive media to include interactive options, it is evident that each unique screen demands its3

determining what is effective and appropriate (Christakis &Garrison 2009; Tandon et al. 2011). The impact of technology is mediated by teachers’ use of the same developmentally appropriate principles and practices that guide theuse of print materials and all other learning tools and content for young children (Van Scoter, Ellis, & Railsback 2001;Clements & Sarama 2003a; Plowman & Stephen 2005, 2007).to technology tools and broadband connections to theInternet in their homes, begin using the Internet at an earlyage, and have highly developed technology skills and beginning digital literacy when they enter school. Children infamilies with fewer resources may have little or no accessto the latest technologies in their homes, early childhoodsettings, schools, or communities (Becker 2000; Burdette& Whitaker 2005; Calvert et al. 2005; National Institute forLiteracy 2008; Cross, Woods, & Schweingruber 2009; Common Sense Media 2011).Young children need opportunities to develop the early“technology-handling” skills associated with early digitalliteracy that are akin to the “book-handling” skills associated with early literacy development (National Institute forLiteracy 2008). The International Society for Technology inEducation (2007) recommends basic skills in technologyoperations and concepts by age 5. Early childhood settingscan provide opportunities for exploring digital cameras,audio and video recorders, printers, and other technologies to children who otherwise might not have access tothese tools. Educators should also consider the learningand creative advantage that high-quality interactive mediacan bring to children, especially when combined with skillful teaching and complementary curriculum resourcesthat work together to accelerate learning and narrow theachievement gap between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers.When educators appropriately integrate technology andinteractive media into their classrooms, equity and accessare addressed by providing opportunities for all children toparticipate and learn (Judge, Puckett, & Cabuk 2004; Cross,Woods, & Schweingruber 2009). In such an environment,accommodations are made for children with special needsto use technology independently (Hasselbring & Glaser2000), and technology strategies to support dual languagelearners are in place.Issues of equity and access also have implications forearly childhood professionals and policymakers. Someearly childhood educators face the same challenges in theirown access to technology tools and Internet broadband atwork or home as do the families of children in their care.Research and awareness of the value of technology toolsand interactive media in early childhood education need tobe shared with policy makers who are interested in issuesof access and equity for children, parents, families, andteachers.The appeal of technology can lead to inappropriateuses in early childhood settings. Technology and mediaare tools that are effective only when used appropriately.The appeal of technology and the steady stream of newdevices may lead some educators to use technology fortechnology’s sake, rather than as a means to an end.Technology should not be used for activities that are noteducationally sound, not developmentally appropriate,or not effective (electronic worksheets for preschoolers,for example). Passive use of technology and any type ofscreen media is an inappropriate replacement for activeplay, engagement with other children, and interactions withadults. Digitally literate educators who are grounded inchild development theory and developmentally appropriate practices have the knowledge, skills, and experience toselect and use technology tools and interactive media thatsuit the ages and developmental levels of the children intheir care, and they know when and how to integrate technology into the program effectively. Educators who lacktechnology skills and digital literacy are at risk of makinginappropriate choices and using technology with youngchildren in ways that can negatively impact learning anddevelopment.Issues of equity and access remain unresolved. The potential of technology and interactive media to positively influencehealthy growth and development makes it important for earlychildhood educators to carefully consider issues of equity andaccess when they select, use, integrate, and evaluate technology and media. Early childhood educators have an opportunityto provide leadership in assuring equitable access to technology tools and interactive media experiences for the children,parents, and families in their care.In the early 1960s, Head Start and other early childhoodprograms targeted the differences in access to print mediafor children from differing economic backgrounds. Today,educators face similar challenges with regard to technologytools, media, and broadband access to the Internet. Children growing up in affluent families more often have access4

The Positiondegrading, dangerous, exploitative, or intimidating to children.This includes undue exposure to violence or highly sexualizedimages (NAEYC 1994; AAP 2009).Just as early childhood educators always have been encouraged and advised to monitor and apply the latest researchfindings in areas such as health and child development, so tooshould they continually monitor and assess research findingson emerging issues related to technology, including 3D visionand eye health, exposure to electromagnetic fields and radiation from cellular phones (EMR Policy Institute 2011), toxinsfrom lead paint or batteries, choking hazards involving smallparts, child obesity, screen time, or any other potentiallyharmful, physiological, or developmental effects or side effectsrelated to the use of technology.It is the position of NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center that:Technology and interactive media are tools that can promote effective learning and development when they areused intentionally by early childhood educators, withinthe framework of developmentally appropriate practice(NAEYC 2009a), to support learning goals established forindividual children. The framework of developmentallyappropriate practice begins with knowledge about whatchildren of the age and developmental status representedin a particular group are typically like. This knowledgeprovides a general idea of the activities, routines, interactions, and curriculum that should be effective. Each childin the particular group is then considered both as an individual and within the context of that child’s specific family,community, culture, linguistic norms, social group, pastexperience (including learning and behavior), and currentcircumstances (www.naeyc.org/dap/core; retrieved February 2, 2012).Children’s experiences with technology and interactivemedia are increasingly part of the context of their lives,which must be considered as part of the developmentallyappropriate framework.To make informed decisions regarding the intentionaluse of technology and interactive media in ways that support children’s learning and development, early childhoodteachers and staff need information and resources on thenature of these tools and the implications of their use withchildren.NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center offer the followingprinciples to guide the use of technology and interactivemedia in early childhood programs.Developmentally a

devices, portable video players, digital cameras, video record-ers, and more. Screen time is the total amount of time spent in front of any and all of these screens (Common Sense Media 2011; Guernsey 2011c). As digital technology has expanded in scope beyond linear, non-interactive media to include interac-

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