Technology is constantly changing, making it difficult to keep up let alone to know how much exposure and what type of technology is good for your child. Luckily there are guidelines and this therapist’s professional opinion to assist. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been stressing for years the importance of limiting media for children. In October of 2013 they announced their recommendation that screen time for children should be limited to 1-2 hours a day. They also suggested that children under the age of 2 have no screen time. They also offer a great resource for managing family media time.
Why is understanding appropriate technology for your child important?
According to studies by the AAP, too much time watching media or with technology can be linked with behavioral problems, difficulties at school, obesity, and other negative behaviors. It is problematic because a major way children learn is from what they see. Too often what they see in the media or from technology like video games does not promote positive or prosocial behaviors. Children also learn from what they experience so they need to be participating in a variety of activities to promote healthy development.
Other studies suggest that children under the age of 3 should be limited to age-appropriate screen time or technology use. They also found that children can still learn from interactions over media aides such as “Skype”. So, if you have family who lives far away and their primary link to your child is Skype, FaceTime, etc. this is a positive and appropriate use of technology. However, the studies still suggest you limit the amount of time your child spends in front of screens. To read more about this study go here.
Sticking to the recommendations made by researchers and authorities (like those linked above) ensures that the technology you allow your kids access to is going to help, not hinder, their development. There are times in therapy when I use a carefully selected app, computer game, or other electronic to improve the child’s skills, motivation, and to break up difficult tasks. I also directly monitor and interact as they play which further enhances the benefits of electronics. Even as a therapist, I realize I must use the strengths of the children and limit the amount of time they spend on these tasks. Many children remember stories or things that they have seen better than what they are told, so games or videos can help with remembering important lessons. When technology is used it should be of short duration and should not be the only means of teaching. Remember, communication and physical experience are of paramount importance and should play a major role in the lives of all children.
Recommended technology APPs
In order to help parents get started selecting technology that will help their child learn, grow, communicate, and advance developmentally you will find below a list of recommended apps. This list includes apps that work on fine motor skills (writing, fasteners), cognition (thinking and learning), language/communication, and behavioral skills.
- Color ID: speaks the name of colors to aide your child in the identification of colors
- Sight Words: assists your child in learning to read up to 315 age-appropriate words
- Picture Card Maker: helps you create picture cards (displayed on the device or printed) to help with communication and reading
- Stretch Break for Kids: reminders for stretching breaks (offers videos of stretches) during computer use
- Sunday Drive: helps your child plan a trip (offers insider info, history from locals, secret spots, etc.)
- Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame: with this research-based app you help a Sesame Street monster calm down and solve challenge
- Pinch Peeps: encourages fine motor development by having your child pinch and drag together two similar peeps to score points and progress through the game
- Sam Phibian: improves fine motor skills as your child helps Sam the frog eat the designated amount of bugs of different colors that move in different patterns and speeds