Written by Jenna Herdzina, Policy to Practice Intern at TEC Center
“The TEC Center at Erikson Institute is a thought leader in the appropriate use of technology with young children. 2017 marks the 5 years since the release of the NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center Joint Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs. TEC Center Director and Senior Fellow with the Fred Rogers Center, Dr. Chip Donohue, was one of the contributing authors. The TEC Center, and our partners at the Fred Rogers Center, have promoted the key messages, principles, and guidelines from the start.
In addition, Dr. Donohue was also a contributor to the Early Childhood STEM Working Group Report: Early STEM Matters: Providing High-Quality STEM Experiences for All Young Learners which was published in January 2017. We help educators across the globe connect research and policy to practice in our professional development programs and conference sessions.“
Two weeks ago, TEC Center published ten current policy statements that early childhood leaders and professionals should reference when thinking about how to help other professionals and families navigate the digital world. Continuing this conversation, TEC Center Policy to Practice Intern, Jenna Herdzina, found many of these current policy resources to highlight different aspects of digital media and technology with young children. Overall however, there are four aspects Jenna urges parents and educators to focus on while incorporating policy into their decisions around technology use with young children.
- It’s essential for parents and educators to keep in mind that these policy statements are dynamic. No single policy statement or set of recommendations is final. Parents and educators should look for reoccurring themes across policy. These themes include caregiver/educator-child engagement, quality over quantity, and putting the development of the child first.
- The idea of “quality” digital media is constantly evolving. While one activity or app of digital media may be “quality” for one child, it may not be for another child due to their development and abilities, the setting in which it is taking place, cultural values and beliefs, etc.
- Many policy statements still talk about “screen time” but are using different language. Setting time limits is unrealistic. Digital media is at the library, in museums, at the grocery store, on the airplane, in elevators, and in their classrooms. The simple fact is that digital media is all around us. Digital media policy should reflect reality as well as best practices. Policy needs to include giving parents, educators and program administrators help in identifying how to use technology appropriately with young children rather than making them feel guilty.
- Many policy statements have not addressed caregivers’ and educators’ use of digital media for documentation and support. There are many digital tools that allow caregivers to document and communicate a child’s development in a multiple caregiver system. There are also many digital media resources for caregivers to connect, such as through blogs and articles about parenting skills, methods, and experiences, or connecting through online support groups. The caregivers’ and educators’ use of digital media affects how they interact with the children they care for. These policy statements often still discuss digital media use as a distraction or leisure for the caregiver and do not entirely consider digital media a tool for communication, empowerment and a medium for accessing resources and knowledge that support the entire family.
Jenna Herdzina is the Policy to Practice Intern at TEC Center, focusing on how technology in early childhood policy and implementation impact marginalized communities.