Technology and under 5s

Dr Cathy Hamer and Irene Picton

Children growing up today are surrounded by new technologies, embedded in their everyday experiences. Barcode scanners, mobile phones, computers, televisions DVDs and tablets are among the types of technology that your child will meet and use when you are at home and when you are out and about. In nursery and pre-schools technology might be called ICT, i.e. a combination of Information Communication and Technology.

How do you feel about technology?
All parents want their child to be happy, have friends and succeed. But, you may also feel a tension between your hopes for your child and have concerns about their virtual safety in a technologically new world about which you may be uncertain. As a parent it will be up to you to decide what will suit your child and family best.

Try to ensure that your child’s use of technology leaves plenty of time for good old physical activity and social interaction. Screen time may reduce the number of opportunities a young child has to experience the pace of “real” life and simple things such as taking turns in a conversation, which may affect resilience and concentration.

Older family members can set a good example by being sensible about their own screen use and putting simple ground rules in place, for example, “no phones at mealtimes” and “no screens for an hour before bedtime.”

What might I want to know about my child’s development and technology?
Babies start to understand simple technology from the moment they start to explore objects, such as rattles and activity centres. As they develop they show interest in toys with buttons, flaps and simple mechanisms and begin to learn how to work them. They enjoy anticipating sounds and actions.

Toddlers gradually gain basic skills in turning things on and soon learn how to use a touch screen. Often a child’s next steps will be to make toys work by pressing parts or lifting flaps to make things happen, sound, movement and pictures. They begin to learn that devices hold information and will be able to sing along with a song or watch something on a TV, computer, tablet or phone.

By the time they start school children are likely to enjoy being able to play a simple game on a computer or tablet.

What do I need to think about?

  • Using technology while playing with your child helps them to learn – at first this may be pretend like using toy telephones but soon they’ll be chatting to grandma.
  • Activities which you do together help your child learn to communicate – it is the interaction that is important, especially when you’re not face to face!
  • Showing your child that you use technology, e.g. texting, provides them with a model that they will want to copy, so do involve them. Show them and explain the messages. Send messages for them.
  • Make sure you check out programs and apps BEFORE your child uses them – they should be at an appropriate level for your child’s development as well as being safe.
  • Think about the range of opportunities you can give your child to explore the world around them. Try giving your child a camera and see what they choose to photograph. Print their pictures, send them to family, show them on the computer or tablet screen.

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