Tips for technology with 0-3 year olds

What do I need to know about using technology?
Technology, the internet and digital devices are now part of everyday life. Most homes have internet access and nearly everyone has a touch-screen or tablet computer at home. As a parent, you might be worried about your young child’s technology usage, and looking at the news it feels like there is always conflicting advice about what is best for children when using technology.

We have looked at the current research around technology and young children and would recommend a few key things that experts agree on:

  • You are still the best person for your child to learn from. Technology will work best when you and your child play together using it, just like a book. Your child still needs to see and hear you explaining and doing things so they can understand how to do it themselves.
  • Everything is about balance. Make sure that time your child spends playing with technology is also balanced with other activities, like playing outside or playing ‘offline’ games together. You are the best person to decide when enough is enough.
  • When you and your child are playing with technology, make sure you connect it to other things your child is learning. For example, if you enjoy baking together see if there are any games or online recipes you can find together.

Is my child too young?
You are the best person to decide how much time with technology is enough for your child. Make sure any technology you do let your child use is suited to their abilities. Anything that is too long or complicated will often make them switch off at this age anyway.

Babies start to understand simple technology from the moment they start to explore objects, such as rattles and activity centres. As they develop they show interest in toys with buttons, flaps and simple mechanisms and begin to learn how to work them. They enjoy anticipating sounds and actions.

Toddlers gradually gain basic skills in turning things on and soon learn how to use a touch screen. Often a child’s next steps will be to make toys work by pressing parts or lifting flaps to make things happen, sound, movement and pictures. They begin to learn that devices hold information and will be able to sing along with a song or watch something on a TV, computer, tablet or phone.

What should I avoid?
Always avoid any technology that is violent or that reinforces any negative stereotypes.

Remember the saying, ‘do as I say, not as I do?’ Your child will want to copy anything you are doing, so if you are always using technology they will want to be too!

So what can I do with my child?
At first your child will want to explore and try new things out, which will mean pressing flaps or buttons & repeating this over and over again. Eventually they will move on to understand how technology is used and will begin to use the technology in their play, for example they will use a camera to take pictures of things.

Look out for technology that can support your 0-3 year old to:

  • Make different marks, like drawing or taking pictures
  • Listen to simple stories or conversations
  • Understand and follow out simple instructions
  • Ask questions & begin to describe what is going on
  • Hear different rhymes and songs

Parents often ask us about using Skype with their children to speak to family members all over the world. Skype and other video messaging services can provide great opportunities for your child to develop their listening and attention and speaking skills. Skype and other services, such as YouTube, can also help if your child speaks more than one language, as they will be able to hear these languages in their play – which is great for their brain development.

It is important to try and make sure you are around to help your child understand what is going on when they are using technology.

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