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Group Urges Thoughtful Use of Digital Tech With Young Children

In an hour long panel discussion on how parents and caregivers can make informed decisions about the use of digital media and TV for young children, the nonprofit research group Child Trends was clear in their views.
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia; Lisa Guernsey, the director of the Early Childhood Initiative at the New America Foundation in Washington, and Rosemarie Truglio, the senior vice president of education and research at Sesame Workshop were dismayed at the prospect of infants being being left alone in front of an iPad for extended periods of time in the newly available bouncy and potty seats with built-in holders for tablets.
Truglio summed up the group's opinion succintly, calling the idea, "Horrible".
That opinion somewhat aligns with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics which says, "television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2," however the group believes in a more nuanced approach.
The group feels there is a place for digital media in the lives of young children based on it actively engaging the child, providing a means for adult-child interaction and being meaningful to the activities the child engages in. They also point out that a child's individul response to the media must be considered as some children will be spellbound by a digital display while others may not find it inviting at all.
What's also important, they said, is to weigh the types of media that children are consuming: they may be appropriate if they're actively engaging children, if those activities are meaningful for young children, and if they offer a way for children and parents to interact. Also important, they say, is the response of an individual child: some may be mesmerized by a screen, others may not find it quite as attractive.
The group emphasized the overriding importance of interaction between caregiver and child as demonstrated by Truglio's response to a question about a cut-off age, under which digital media should not be used. She responded there is no cut-off age, providing there is appropriate interaction. "If a parent is using a screen with a 6-month old, and they're looking at family photos or a simple e-book, that's not bad," she said.
Said Hirsh-Pasek: "We're all suggesting that parents use this as a platform or a tool, not as an end in itself."
You can view a video of the group's discussion at: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2013/12/panel_explores_thoughtful_use_of_digital_technology_for_young_children.html(the presentation starts around minute 18).
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