WALK ALONG ANY STREET or observe people sitting in a restaurant or in any other public place these days and you will inevitably find many of them fingering their computer cell phones. These gadgets have become so much a part of our lives that a growing number of people have begun to worry that they are replacing the essential function of live human communication.
The concern is becoming greater among those in the field of early child care and education. They emphasize that the first years of life are the most critical for the development of social, emotional, cognitive and physical development and that this is when the child most needs interaction with adult human beings.
Parents should remember that electronic devices might supplement but should never serve as a substitute for other more vital aids to their child’s development. The National Association for the Development of Young Children (NAEYC) recommends that certain essential things be kept in mind about them.
Nothing can substitute for a parent looking into an infant’s or toddler’s eyes, talking and reacting to her. Nor can reading stories to her from a book and encouraging her to react to the story. Electronic apps can be used as a supplement if they also tell stories in pictures and words if they encourage interaction between parent and child the way a book does. Apps that deal with nature, birds, animals, the weather or other topics used by the parent and child are also helpful if the parent uses it with the child as a tool to communicate between them. But parents should avoid apps and programs that are set up for infants and toddlers being alone with the device. They should never be used as a means of babysitting or to keep children busy.With preschoolers, parents should keep in mind that their growth and development is related to moving their bodies. Their fine motor skills are developed by using their hands to learn to cut with scissors, shaping things out of playdough, and solving puzzles. They need lots of physical exercise every day. Electronic devices should never replace time for them to socialize, play outdoors with their friends, hands-on work with art materials or time to explore on their own.
If you are a parent who wonders whether your child is being harmed by the substitution of electronic devices for human interaction, Child Trends offered a way out of the dilemma. In a recent posting, they put forward several ways screen time can benefit children and their families by actually stimulating interaction between children and adultsThe rule that applies with most things should apply with electronic devices. A healthy balance and common sense should dictate the rules.