Media & Technology (3 - 5 yrs.)

Before Watching

We live in a digital world. Television and web programs, video and online games, e-books, streaming media, mobile applications (“apps”), tablets, smart phones, televisions, and computers are just a small sampling of today’s digital media and technology tools, and they are often a large part of our daily routines at home and on-the-go. When you use these tools with your child in an intentional, controlled way, you can create meaningful learning experiences.

Many digital tools have been created with education in mind. From math to literacy to developing social and emotional skills, you can use media and technology to support your child’s learning and development. When you use these tools as jumping-off points for hands-on exploration, your child’s experiences become even richer. For example, your child might watch his favorite television character conduct a science experiment and then try the same experiment himself.

Media and technology can also be used to extend your child’s interests. For example, if your child is excited about cars and trucks, he might learn more about his favorite vehicles by playing an online game about transportation. Or, on a trip to the grocery store, you might engage your child by using a smart phone to find out interesting facts about his favorite fruit.

Media and technology can also be used as tools for communication. Video chats allow family members to keep in touch even when far apart, and assistive tools such as touchscreens offer children with verbal communication challenges ways to communicate with others and to express their thoughts and feelings.

When your child interacts with any type of digital media or technology, it is important that you guide and monitor his use. Your child’s experiences will be far more meaningful when you choose the programs that he interacts with, limit his exposure, and watch and play along with him. You can then help him to reflect upon his experiences and make connections to real world objects, materials, and events that he sees and engages with every day. When used in an intentional, thoughtful way, media and technology can provide an accessible gateway to learning and growth.

In this video you’ll meet children from four families:

  • Cora (age 4) and her sister Pepper (age 2) as they use a mobile app as a jumping-off point for science discovery. 
  • Kendra (age 3) and her sisters Kayla (age 8) and Keyara (age 11) as they dance to a video game along with their mom and dad.
  • Yoong (age 4) as he uses video chat to stay connected with his far-away grandparents.
  • Twins Teddy and Johnny (age 5) as they use assistive technology to communicate.

Watch as these children build upon their experiences with media and technology to create rich learning adventures.

After Watching

Media and Technology in a Young Child’s World. In this video, you saw young children interacting with many forms of media and technology. Cora and Pepper learned science concepts from an online game, Yoong used video chat to keep in touch with his grandparents, Kendra enjoyed active family time as she danced along with a video game, and Teddy and Jonny used an app to communicate with their parents. Does your child use any of the digital tools you saw in the video? How does she use them? What do you think she learns as she interacts with these different tools? What are you doing while she is using these devices?

Several parents mentioned that they make intentional choices about their child’s use of media and technology. They preview media to make sure the content is appropriate and decide what their child will engage with and for how long. They are also there, playing and watching along with their child, to make the experience more engaging and interactive. This helps ensure their child has a worthwhile experience with media and technology. What are some ways that you get involved as your child interacts with media and technology? What strategies do you have for limiting your child’s use?

Try This. Before your child watches a show or plays a game, talk about one thing she will be excited to do afterward. Getting excited about what’s to come will help her when it’s time to move on to the next activity.

Viewing and Doing. In the video, Cora and Pepper play a PEEP and the Big Wide World game about ramps and then build their own ramps using everyday items. After watching a television program, Kendra is inspired by to have a pretend tea party and the whole family joins in the fun.

Try This. Place a “media box” next to your television or computer. Fill a cardboard box with dress-up clothes, paper, pens, and building materials. After your child has watched a show or played an online game, encourage her to use the items in the box for pretend play, art, and building. Challenge her to act out, draw, or build something from the show. Or, ask her to think up an idea for a new show and then act it out.

Technology and Communication. Many technology tools have been created to help us communicate. Yoong uses video chat to communicate with his grandparents, who live far away. Teddy uses an adaptive technology that lets him touch a screen to have a conversation with his parents. But even if an app or game was not created for this specific purpose, you can still use it to help your child build language and communication skills. One way to do this is by asking your child questions as he interacts with the technology. By asking questions that encourage your child to connect his experiences with technology to his experiences out in the world, you help him to observe, describe, and make connections. Asking questions will deepen your child’s experiences with technology.

Try This. The next time your child is using technology try asking her “What,” “Why do you think,” and “How” questions. For example, you might ask, “What do you like about this game?” or “Why do you think the character did that?” or “How does this remind you of something you have done at school?”

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