An Op-Ed to The AAP’s New Statement on Play from the TEC Center at Erikson Institute Associate Director and Program Manager

written by Tamara Kaldor and Jenna Herdzina

Media (eg, television, video games, and smartphone and tablet applications) use often encourages passivity and the consumption of others’ creativity rather than active learning and socially interactive play. –American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), August 20, 2018

Today, The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a new statement and research on children and play. The AAP describes the critical role of parents and other adults in supporting and scaffolding play. Children and adults often enjoy joining in digital play together but frequently this type of play is seen and viewed as an isolating activity in the media and now by the AAP, “easy access to electronic media can be difficult for parents to compete with.” The AAP has their own statement on technology which advocates for children making and creating with media but doesn’t reference it in their play statement which is disappointing.

 

The TEC Center advocates strongly for inclusive play and policies that respect the diverse families and educators we serve. We educate parents, caretakers and early childhood educators:
  • To be present with presence when young children are using technology tools
  • To be strong media mentors who can model when to put technology tools away, how to engage in the meaningful and appropriate use of technology tools and how to put relationships first
  • To become empowered to make informed choices about the media and technology young children consume, use to create with and use in their play.
  • To meet parents where they are and understand the many stresses that families face from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Many families have different beliefs about play and what it should look like; when and where it should take place; and what types of play are appropriate.

 

Today is also the second anniversary of the release of our founding director, Chip Donohue’s Family Engagement in the Digital Age: early Childhood Educators As Media Mentors, which features 27 researchers and experts on family engagement sharing what we know about empowering and engaging parents, caregivers and families in the twenty-first century. There is a growing body of research from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and many others that point to dual language learning families using technology together to learn and play. The AAP’s statement on play and technology ignores this critical research. Suggesting a prescription of play to families assumes many privileges of families including high educational achievement and understanding of current child development research, an abundance of free time, and safe spaces for indoor and outdoor play. The AAP briefly mentions this:

 

For economically challenged families, competing pressures make it harder for parents to find the time to play with children. Encouraging outdoor exercise may be more difficult for such families given unsafe playgrounds. –American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), August 20, 2018

 

While advocating for play is a step in the right direction for valuing early learning and development, academic achievement gaps and developmental concerns are incredibly nuanced and cannot be solved by simply instructing parents to play with their children or through technology. Advocating for play must be informed by cultural values and current family situations and by joining families where they live, eat and play.

 

How can you support high-quality digital play with young children? Check out the following resources: