We’re often told that playtime is integral to the development of a child. In today’s “Toddlers & Technology” panel Lori Leibovich (Exec Lifestyle Editor of Huffington Post Parents), Maryam Scoble (wife of techology blogger, Robert Scoble), Sarah Evans (owner of Sevans Strategy) and Tony Favorito (Director of Product Design at Fischer Price) discussed the balance that should be taken and challenges in raising a generation of digital natives, focusing specifically on children under the age of 3. Some questions and answers below:
As it relates to technology, what kind of play benefits children?
The panelists agreed on using the analogy of a well-rounded toy box. Taking school, sleeping and meals into account, children only have 4-5 hours of free time per day. Favorito believed that playtime should be a combination of physical activity outdoors and intellectual stimulation by way of technology indoors.
Scoble revealed that her 5 year old is autistic, and the iPad has been beneficial to the development of her son. Often times, autistic children are challenged in interacting with their peers, stunting their ability to learn social cues. Her son loves trains, and began watching YouTube videos of other children playing with trains. From watching these online videos, her son began mimicking behaviors he observed on-screen, enabling him to play trains with his siblings.
Scoble also praised the app ecosystem for making thousands of educational applications for developmentally challenged children available for $0.99 - $199. Prior to the development of these apps, parents of Autistic children had to purchase devices that cost ten’s of thousands of dollars - a price beyond many people’s means.
How much supervision do children need with technology?
Evan’s work is in the digital space, so she and her husband struggle with how much screen time her child should be exposed to. Experts recommend that children under 2 should have minimal exposure to screens, but Evan permits some screen time to her 18 month old as an activity they do together, rather than a supplement to active parenting.
How can parents find the best educational apps for their toddlers?
Most of the panelists are employed in the tech sector, placing them in environments where discovery of these apps are easier than for most. Common Sense Media was recommended by many in the audience as a great resource for finding the best apps for toddlers.
On correcting our own tech habits to teach children mobile manners…
The panelists admitted that they are constantly in an internal conflict between wanting their kids to be digitally savvy, but feeling guilty about the grey area of using technology as a babysitter. Although no one is perfect, they believe in changing their own behaviors and putting away their devices to show their children the value of being present. Evans has strict rules in her household: no devices in the evening, no phones at the dinner table and no unsupervised tablet time. Leibovich recently neglected her phone for an entire vacation, reminiscing that while it was challenging at first, it was the absolute best family vacation she had ever taken.
Personally, I am interested in seeing how parenting will evolve as we raise this generation of digital natives. I consider myself a digital native, but the internet didn’t become a prominent activity in my life until the 5th grade. This new generation is now being exposed to screens even before they can recite the alphabet. Although moderation of time spent with technology and supervision of media consumption seem like common sense, it’s clear to me that it’s much easier said than done.