This past week Common Sense Media published a study titled “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, 2013.” Thanks to this new report we now have an increasingly clear portrait of the ways families are using technology. Although this study is full of interesting details and statistics, it is understandable that The New York Times and others are focused on the report’s look at the youngest and newest app users: babies. During their research, Common Sense Media found that 38% of children under 2 years old had used touch-screen electronic devices such as an iPhone, iPad, or Kindle.
Coming from the perspective of an early childhood educator and app developer, I appreciate this study’s look at when, how, and why babies are now playing on touch-screens. Good research, such as this, gives educators and app makers a needed glimpse into the patterns of parents who offer touch-screens to their children during their own schedule of errands and household chores. No doubt parents find developmentally appropriate apps a great solution to their baby’s need to play, explore, and interact.
However, having taught preschool, kindergarten, and first grade in the past, I’m also mindful that one’s family patterns can impact critical childhood language development. We want families and babies talking for many reasons, but certainly because positive early language development is foundational for later success in school. For those of us who wonder if tech-time (by parent or child) will replace person-to-person interaction, we can be pleased with some of the numbers in this report.
58% of the families in this study reported that media was not affecting their time spent together as a family; and even better, 12% said media contributed to more family time together. Let’s hope we keep those numbers high, as families maintain plenty of family-time where a baby, sibling, and parent enjoy talking together about their experiences both onscreen and off.
Our own Mrs. Judd’s Games team was watching this trend when we created DJ Baby Planet: Music Toy for Tots. We thought of its usefulness for both family-time and moments of parental chores or errands. Why not help very young toddlers explore and discover a playful world of sound and music taking advantage of these engaging touch-screen devices? We are seeing a number of organizations like teaching teams, universities, and businesses take notice of these early learners exposure to technology when they work to create apps. We’re excited to help companies responsibly build this next wave of learning for our youngest learners.