More Guidelines for Young Children using Edtech
For many young students being online is a natural state. With 95% of students between the ages of 8-11 using the internet almost weekly, there is no doubt that their understanding of the web is growing. Not only are young children using the web, but they are exploring it, learning through it and using it more than ever. Edtech is being marketed at children as young as two, and it is important that parents and educators understand how best to use edtech and the concerns that come with it. By laying down some guidelines, all parties involved in early education and edtech can have some starting points.
Time behind the screen
While technology can bring with it great educational benefit, young children cannot be placed behind a screen all day. Prolonged screen exposure from a young age may do more harm than good. An article in Phycology Today looks at the damages that too much screen time has on the developing brain and ways that this can be combatted. On average, children typically sit behind a screen for 5-7 hours, and this includes entertainment time. Edtech in the classroom would increase this exposure.
Therefore, it is important that young students have a balance between screen time and “unplugged time. “Educators need to understand that young children should not be placed behind a screen for hours on end. They can benefit from the cognitive benefits of edtech but need to also benefit from interacting face to face with classmates, exploring the world around them and using things they learned from edtech in their everyday lives.
The right Edtech at the right time
Young children are drawn to bright and interactive edtech, and while this is great for advertisers, it should not be the sole reason a child sits down with an educational product. Young learners should be using edtech to fulfill a learning outcome, to complete a task and not because the product offers pretty pictures. Developmentally, young children move fast, and it is important that teachers and parents make the right edtech choices at the right time.
It can also be helpful to look at the existing policies that have been laid out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding the use of edtech and early childhood learning.These policies and guidelines look at cognitive functions, the optimal use of edtech in early learning and concerns about edtech during these fundamental years.
Children understand the fun and learning that comes along with technology but not always the responsibility and risks. Edtech needs to function on a device that is secure for young learners. Educators should start teaching about cyber security and make sure that students learn to report issues with the device, content and any other technology related problems. Savvy Cyber Kids and other organizations are starting to teach cyber security to kids as young as 3.
Young learners are prone to distractions and with a myriad of apps and games on a single device; edtech may not be their priority. This can be combatted using apps that block access as well as parental lock functions. Edtech needs to exist as an educational tool and not as a game that can be clicked in and out of. While edtech can be fun (and tends to be like games for younger kids), it needs to command their attention for longer periods of time in order to be effective.
So, while edtech is improving students access to education, teachers and parents need to aware of how it can be best used with young students. Screen time needs to be limited, security concerns met and distractions limited. By implementing a few guidelines, young students can engage with edtech in a way that prepares them for the future of education while giving them opportunities to live life unplugged.