Tips for technology with 3-5 year olds

What do I need to know about using technology?
Technology, the internet and digital devices are now part of everyday life. Most homes have internet access and nearly everyone has a touch-screen or tablet computer at home. As a parent, you might be worried about your young child’s technology usage, and looking at the news it feels like there is always conflicting advice about what is best for children when using technology.

We have looked at the current research around technology and young children and would recommend a few key things that experts agree on:

  • You are still the best person for your child to learn from. Technology will work best when you and your child play together using it, just like a book. Your child still needs to see and hear you explaining and doing things so they can understand how to do it themselves.
  • Everything is about balance. Make sure that time your child spends playing with technology is also balanced with other activities, like playing outside or playing ‘offline’ games together. You are the best person to decide when enough is enough.
  • When you and your child are playing with technology, make sure you connect it to other things your child is learning. For example, if you enjoy baking together see if there are any games or online recipes you can find together.

Is my child too young?
You are the best person to decide how much time with technology is enough for your child. Make sure any technology you do let your child use is suited to their abilities. As they are getting older they will be getting better equipped to use different forms of technology, so they may want to spend longer on different devices. You may want to start introducing behaviour management techniques, like giving your child a timer to count down how long they have left to use a device, to make sure there are no tantrums when it is taken away.

As children get older they begin to learn that devices hold information and they will begin to use it to concentrate for longer periods and carry out more complicated games or instructions. For example they may now be able to listen to a whole story, may start to try and read, or begin to type their name and other words in to devices.

What should I avoid?
Always avoid any technology that is violent or that reinforces any negative stereotypes.

Remember the saying, ‘do as I say, not as I do?’ Your child will want to copy anything you are doing, so if you are always using technology they will want to be too!

So what can I do with my child?
Look out for technology that can support your 3-5 year old to:

  • Play more complex games and follow rules
  • Listen to and repeat longer stories, songs & rhymes
  • Share with others
  • Make up their own stories or games
  • Link sounds to letters, eventually helping them to read
  • Begin to write letters, words and short sentences.

Parents often ask us about using Skype with their children to speak to family members all over the world. Skype and other video messaging services can provide great opportunities for your child to develop their listening and attention and speaking skills. Skype and other services, such as YouTube, can also help if your child speaks more than one language, as they will be able to hear these languages in their play – which is great for their brain development.

It is important to try and make sure you are around to help your child understand what is going on when they are using technology.

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