Every year or so, the National Association for the Education of Young Children writes or revises formal statements on controversial or timely topics in an attempt to provide sound advice to teachers, principals and directors. The subject on the table for discussion this year is the association's revised statement on the use of technology with young children. Comments are due to TechandYC@naeyc.org by May 31.
Ever since the association embarked on its update, the issue of screen time among young children has provoked heated debate among NAEYC members, some of which was on display during a packed and tense meeting during NAEYC's November conference. Some people in the early childhood community want to keep screen-based technology like video players and computers away from preschoolers and kindergartners, arguing that they distract children from hands-on play. Others see potential in video screens and digital technology when used appropriately under adult supervision.
We've argued here at the Early Education Initiative that videos and well-designed digital games can, indeed, open children's eyes to new ideas and provide them with engaging tools for making sense of the world around them.
The dangers come when childcare centers rely on video as a pacifier or let televisions run as background noise, disrupting healthy moments of play and conversation between children and with their caregivers. Teachers in preschools and childcare centers have a responsibility to learn about the latest research on the negative impact of background media on language development. They must ensure that TVs are not blaring in their classrooms, even when faced with those hard-to-fill afternoon hours. Home-based family childcare providers need to understand the hazards of simply popping in one DVD after another throughout the day.
The current draft is an update of a statement adopted by the NAEYC governing board in 1996. The revised version is a joint product of NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. Both organizations are hoping that a final statement will soon be approved by NAEYC leaders and published this fall.