First Things First suggests ways to link technology and toddlers

By managing screen time and choosing developmentally appropriate technology, adults can extend children’s learning, according to early childhood educators. (Submitted photo)

For families of babies, toddlers and preschoolers, saying no screen time is easier said than done.

Technology isn’t going away, and neither is the desire to make sure that children are prepared for a world filled with computers at every turn.

“A great alternative to media use that is non-engaging, such as a child sitting alone watching a television show, is to use an app or other technology that involves age-appropriate learning and allows parents to engage their children in conversations that grow their vocabulary or allow for an exploration of the senses,” said Kelly Lubeck, First Things First program manager for family support and literacy.

First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help children be successful once they enter kindergarten.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no exposure to screens for children under 2 years old. But as the child gets older, families can use technology and interactive media to support learning and, ultimately, relationships, a release from First Things First stated.

By managing screen time and choosing developmentally appropriate technology, adults can extend children’s learning, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College.

“It’s important to note that not all technology is equal when it comes to use with young children,” First Things First officials stated. “Early childhood organizations make distinctions between passive, non-interactive technology such as certain television programs and DVDs versus age-appropriate websites, phone apps and television programs that allow for the child to be active, create, think critically and problem solve.”

First Things First recommends parents limit children’s screen time and follow up by allowing time for them to explore, pick up things and touch things to stimulate all the senses. offers suggestions to families and encourages parents to ask questions to engage thinking skills, such as, “What do you think will happen next?” Or after viewing a show about animals, take a walk and talk about the animals in the neighborhood.

“Even television or videos billed as educational do not help children under age 2 learn language,” the First Things First release stated. “Babies and toddlers learn new words and develop language skills by listening and interacting with caring adults.”

Added Ms. Lubeck: “When you use technology with your child, think of it as another opportunity to further communication and build the relationship with your child.”

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