Technology and children

We are told in the Early Years Learning Framework that technology should be incorporated into our programs. “Children resource their own learning through connecting with people, place, technologies and natural and processed materials” in Learning outcome 4. “Children use information and communication technologies to access information, investigate ideas and represent their thinking” in Learning Outcome 5. A lot of us see the word technology and think of what we, as adults, engage with every day such as laptops, computers, tablets, TVs, phones etc.

Why then do we keep getting told that technology use for young children is developmentally inappropriate with facts such as these…

The reason is because technology is not just digital technology. If you look at the glossary in the EYLF under Technology you find “Technologies: includes much more than computers and digital technologies used for information, communication and entertainment. Technologies are the diverse range of products that make up the designed world. These products extend beyond artefacts designed and developed by people and include processes, systems, services and environments.” 

Therefore technology use can be explored in so many different ways. Role playing with technology systems is a great way to support children to understand how technology works. Examples could be:

  • kitchens (ovens, microwaves, fridge, freezer)
  • doctors (xray, stethoscope, medicine, thermometer)
  • office (keyboards, old phones, old laptops)
  • explorers (magnifying glasses, old cameras, metal detectors)
  • shopping (scanners, trolleys, baskets, barcodes on old boxes)Little Tikes Home Corner Shopping Set

Play images from Modern Teaching Aids

All of these can provide the opportunity for children to explore technology and their understanding of how technology works in a play based medium. This will support language development, social skills, problem solving, a sense of agency, and learning about systems in their world which help the children feel more connected to their world.

Not only are these activities play based but they also allow the child to take the lead and develop skills that are age appropriate without doing physical harm to the child’s development. Most children have such steady access to digital technology outside of care that should be supported to embrace technology in other ways while in care. In the same way that if a child had a poor diet at home we would support them by providing a nutrient rich diet while they are in care.

Another way to include technology into play is for children to be given access to old technology and explore it by being provided with tools and the time and permission to take it apart. This allows children to explore, create, discuss, problem solve, develop fine motor strength, become familiar with tools, come up with hypothesise on how the technology works, develop resilience, persist with a task, attend to a task for an extended period, and so many more skills.

If using digital technology with children they should be limited to the amount during the day, and also have opportunities to make the activity a social one through shared use, and intentional teaching such as asking questions.

Hopefully this article has provided some opportunities to support children’s engagement with technology in your service, and reflect on what your definition of technology is. It is often helpful to look at the educators reliance on technology during the day too. How often are adults on phones, tablets, computers or attached to a digital camera instead of having meaningful interactions with the children, because we are role models and should always think of whether what we say to children matches what we do.

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