What impact do apps and screen time have on early childhood learning and development? How young is too young? Jacqueline Hess, Director of the Center on Technology and Disability at FHI 360, explores what technology can offer to even our youngest children.
- [Jackie Hess] Babies begin to learn how to interact with the world from the minute they're born. There are now tools that we never had before that we should not be denying the youngest of our children. That can include computer-based, tablet-based, phone-based apps or programs that teach children cause and effect, for instance, the nuances of facial expressions, fine motor skills, pincer skills, certainly all aspects of early learning.
There really is no too young, because there's no too young for development. The issue of screen time has a different meaning, when we talk about children at risk of or having developed disabilities. As soon as we recognize that they're struggling with something, that's the time to do an assessment and to see if there's something that can help that child narrow any developmental gap, and hopefully close the gap entirely. No one supports just plopping a child in front of a screen and leaving them there for a few hours. That is a world away from the type of interaction between an adult and a child and a program that's enabled by technology that really allows that child to flourish.
When you see the magic when a child for the very first time is able to look the parents in the eye, is able to communicate I love you, is able to be on their stomach for the first time, when you see these extremely powerful leaps in development and learning, then you know that technology has made possible what would not have been possible before.