With two young daughters, I have always looked for information about the effects of technology use on young kids. I want to know how much, what kind, and at what age they might benefit from using technology, and how it will affect their learning and the wiring of their little brains.

Lately, I’ve been preparing for a workshop I’ll be doing for parents at an education conference in Hungary next month about Generation Z/iGen, the group of kids born from 1995-2012.

When it comes to how technology is affecting our kids, a lot of the research is in. And, my fellow parents, it’s not great.

For preschoolers, watching just 20 minutes of a fast-paced cartoon show has been shown to have a negative impact on executive function skills, including attention, the ability to delay gratification, self-regulation, and problem solving.

For our older kids – middle and high schoolers – the effects of social media are so much worse than I’d even imagined. But for now, let’s just focus on our younger children.

I’m not all-or-nothing about this topic. I’m not sure that the effects of screentime are from the screens themselves, or from all that our kids are NOT doing while they’re in front of a screen.

Recommendations for Young Children

Remember our dear Mr. Rogers? One of his many legacies is the Fred Rogers Center, located at St. Vincent’s College in Pennsylvania. The center promotes balanced, healthy best practices for parents and teachers of young children. Here’s what they had to say about the effects of screen-time:

  • Less creative play
  • Less play time with caring adults
  • Undermines school performance, learning, and peer relationships
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Childhood obesity
  • Exposure to harmful commercialism

Here are their research-based recommendations:

  1. Use technology in intentional and developmentally appropriate ways.
  2. Provide a balance of activities – technology should support hands-on learning.
  3. Prohibit “passive use” before age 2, discourage passive/non-interactive use through age 5.
  4. Before age 2, technology should support responsive interactions between parent and child and strengthen their relationship.
  5. Don’t use technology when real-world experience will do.
  6. Choose interactive technology that promotes creativity and active contribution from the child.
  7. Diversity makes an impact.
  8. Time with adults still matters most!

The Dissenters

Led by Dr. Marc Prensky, there are some radical dissenters who believe that technology is the most important skill we can help young children attain, even more than reading.

The dissenters claim that we don’t “get it” because we are wired differently.

If this is your belief, I respectfully disagree. I suspect that any mom who has watched how her kids behave on technology versus off technology would agree with me.

The Hard Work

As parents, we are called to lots of hard things when it comes to raising our kids and providing for their education (which you’re doing whether or not you’re a homeschooler!). Here’s a quote I like:

“Parent involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement.” from “Parent Involvement in Early Literacy,” Erika Burton

No pressure, right?

As your 7-year-old is pouting because her time on her Kindle has run out (or is that just me?), I want to encourage you in this journey with two things:

1.This is hard!

2.You can do it.