Technology in the Early Years – Striking the Correct Balance

23rd November 2017

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By Marie-Louise Cadagan

There is an increasing trend within our society in placing more emphasis on the use of “screen technology” within our settings and in our everyday lives. How often do we see a child wanting to tell a parent or something, but they are too busy with their mobile phone or computer? Or the young child who can navigate the iPad at the age of 18months to 2?

The now archived Development matters document highlights the use of technology as early as in the 22-36 month bracket suggesting children should “acquire basic skills in operating some ICT equipment” Marsh et al 2005 states that this trend has been further asserted due to the belief that “moving images and information presented by computers are more engaging” While this be true in some circumstances, is there a danger of over-reliance on technology within our early years settings and in general society and what effect does this “screen time” have on a child’s speech and language development?

Although it is known to be important to develop a child’s ICT skills, use of technology and educational television programmes and DVD’s in our ever-changing 21st century society, surely this shouldn’t be to the detriment of other areas of development of the unique child? Although Marsh et al 2005 stated that the use of moving pictures to be “engaging” research compiled by Zimmerman et al 2007 argued that watching these DVD’s or over spending time on computers may actually hinder children’s language development. Furthermore, language acquisition comes from a child’s use of creativity (Froebel 1782-1852) and the need to interact with others. This is further echoed by the statement “children are hard-wired to learn through real-world experiences and interaction with real human beings” This means as early years practitioners, we are in a position to ensure that the children in our care receive the correct balance of “screen time” and access to meaningful interactions with adults and their peers in order for speech development to progress.

It is important as practitioners that we provide an enabling environment in order for our children to grow and develop “A child’s future choices, attainment, wellbeing, happiness and resilience are profoundly affected by the quality of guidance, love and care they receive during their first years. (Tickell 2011).

This means that in line with the EYFS 2017, we need to provide access to meaningful interactions with technology rather than using it just to pacify the children in our care. The question now is how does this translate into our Early Years environments?

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