What 5 Years of Research Tells Us Part 2: There May Be Some Benefits For Infants And Toddlers, Too

Posted In:

Written by Katie Paciga, PhD, Associate Professor of Education at Columbia College Chicago and the 2015-17 Early Career Research Fellow, TEC Center and Fred Rogers Rogers Center.

The TEC Center and NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center joint position statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs both turn 5 years old this year. As the TEC Center and Fred Rogers Rogers Center 2015-17 Early Career Research Fellow, I engaged in a research project to synthesize what we’ve learned from five years of discussion, research, and practice in children’s technology and media use. I reviewed 595 entries related to early childhood education and technology/digital media published mid-2011 through the beginning of 2016, to see what we could learn about what we really know and what we need to know about young children and technology. In our research report,Technology and Interactive Media for Young Children: A Whole Child Approach Connecting the Vision of Fred Rogers with Research and PracticeTEC Center’s director, Senior Fellow, Fred Rogers Center and co-author of the 2012 NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center joint position statement, Chip Donohue and I, describe the breadth and depth of the published research and practice and we draw connections to Fred Rogers’ simple and deep approach to facilitating whole child development. This series of blog posts will take you through several of our key findings.

Finding 2: Report shows research and practice recommendations are less common for infants and toddlers than other age groups.

In 2012 the NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center joint position statement identified that special considerations must be given to the use of technology with infants and toddlers: “Recognizing that there may be appropriate uses of technology for infants and toddlers in some contexts (for example, viewing digital photos, participating in Skype interactions with loved ones, co-viewing e-books, and engaging with some interactive apps), educators should limit the amount of screen time and, as with all other experiences and activities with infants and toddlers, ensure that any use of technology and media serves as a way to strengthen adult-child relationships” (p.5).

We found that the literature described technology and media use for all ages of young children (0-8), and that approximately 22% of the research and practice we coded indicated infants also accessed and used technology or media. This is significantly less than the body of evidence we coded for other age and demographic groups presented below, and the proportion of entries including infants and toddlers from lower socioeconomic statuses is less than the proportion of children from lower socioeconomic statuses that is observed in other age groups.

Graph provided by Katie Paciga, PhD

Despite this, one finding is particularly clear: infants and toddlers DO access technology and media and this occurs more commonly in home contexts. Given this, we offer the following examples of developmentally appropriate technology and media use from the infant/toddler body of research I coded during my research*:

  1. Document infant and toddler interactions with a camera and review those moments with the children, or with the childcare providers to facilitate reflection and improve adult-child interactions.
  2. Invite parents or other special adults related to the children’s interests into the child care classroom via video conferencing i.e. Skype, FaceTime – toddlers can learn quite a bit from these types of interactions, too.
  3. Provide opportunities for toddlers to explore mark making with digital tools as one of many mark-making experiences. Research has found that children’s fine and gross motor movements differ between digital finger painting and using real paints.

Crescenzi, L., Jewitt, C., & Price, S. (2014). The role of touch in preschool children’s learning using iPad versus paper interaction. Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, 37(2), 86–95.

Luckenbill, J. (2012). Getting the picture: Using the digital camera as a tool to support reflective practice and responsive care. Young Children, 67(2), 28–36.

Roseberry, S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2014). Skype Me! Socially Contingent Interactions Help Toddlers Learn Language. Child Development, 85(3), 956–970. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12166

Written by Katie Paciga, PhD, Associate Professor of Education at Columbia College Chicago and the 2015-17 Early Career Research Fellow, TEC Center and Fred Rogers Rogers Center. The Early Career Research Fellowship was supported by a grant from the Grable Foundation of Pittsburgh. Learn more about the Fred Rogers Center http://www.fredrogerscenter.org


October 5, 2017
Tangible Tech Collection: Early Childhood Tangible Tech and Robotics Info Sheets
The TEC Center has a collection of over 40 tangible technology tools, including robotics. You can download our product info sheets that include early childhood development considerations. Read more →
child developmentcurriculumevaluationinstructiontangible techtechnology
October 5, 2017
Universal Design for Learning
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a flexible educational framework for designing instructional methods, materials, and activities in an effort to provide equal access for all learners with varying abilities and backgrounds. Download our handout on examples for using the principles of UDL with young children. Read more →
resourcesteachinguniversal design for learning