Modern technological advancements have enabled the use of a variety of technologies that are now used to educate children of all ages in schools. Their convenience has also led many parents to resort to various child-oriented electronic tools in everyday life. As such, the idea of using digital media to educate toddlers, or children aged between 0 and 5, has emerged in various circles. However, young children are highly impressionable, and parents should carefully monitor and guide them even after they learn to navigate the tools without help. As such, people should exercise caution when using the method because overuse can lead to children not getting enough sleep, lead to obesity through a reduction in physical activity, and affect the child’s development adversely.
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Lack of Sleep
Digital media, especially that directed at children, tends to be highly stimulating because the approach helps it attract and retain the attention of the target audience. As such, children may have difficulty falling asleep because of the increased mental activity after watching television or participating in other activities. As such, “young children with more media exposure or who have a TV, computer, or mobile device in their bedrooms sleep less and fall asleep later at night” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1). The tendency is particularly concerning because toddlers require high amounts of sleep to grow, as the relevant hormone is only created while the child is resting. As such, insufficient sleep can lead to developmental issues for the toddler, which would offset any benefit obtained by using digital media for education. The problem can potentially be prevented by not allowing the child to be exposed to digital media in the evening, but doing so requires considerable caution from the parents.
Another aspect of digital media usage, which can affect both children and adults and interferes with sleep, is blue light. It suppresses endogenous melatonin and leads to increased alertness, which makes it harder for one to fall asleep (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2). Notably, this tendency applies regardless of whether the content is one-sided or interactive because only the presence of a screen is necessary for the effect to work. While many electronic devices have so-called night modes, which reduce blue light emissions, they are usually unable to eliminate them. As such, the existence of such tools does not mean that it is safe for the child to use media in the evening as long as his or her exposure is monitored carefully. Overall, children should not be exposed to digital tools in the evening due to potential sleep issues, which is a concern because most parents will have free time to oversee their child’s learning then.
Most interactions with digital media require the person to remain in the same location, usually sitting down in front of the screen. As such, prolonged exposure can lead to insufficient physical activity for the child, ultimately leading to the appearance of extra weight. It is also possible that food advertising and watching television while eating leads children to consume more food without regard to safety (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2). Some parents will let children watch digital media during meals for this reason, as they are less likely to refuse to eat or complain while distracted by the screen. However, in doing so, they create a danger that can affect their toddlers later on, as early childhood obesity makes it easier to remain overweight in the future (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2). The most effective solutions appear to be a strict limitation on the child’s digital media consumption per day or increased attention to his or her weight with appropriate interventions whenever it begins showing abnormalities.
With that said, it is often challenging to determine whether a child is overweight before the issue develops to a dangerous degree. BMI is often considered an inaccurate measure due to its failure to recognize various aspects of weight, and there is no other prominent metric. Furthermore, children are rapidly growing and may manifest temporary anomalies that are not related to obesity. As such, it is best to be careful about the potential causes of weight gain, such as digital media, and limit the child’s exposure to them. Authorities recommend that children 2 to 5 years old receive one or less hour of screen use per day and that younger toddlers consume media only under supervision and guidance (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1). Furthermore, parents should ensure that their children receive ample physical exercise, for purposes of both avoiding excessive weight gain and developing the child’s motor skills.
Education that involves digital media tends to be less interactive than that with other people, as it is generally either one-sided or cannot respond to every situation. There is considerable benefit in it, nevertheless, as there is a vast amount of knowledge on the Internet that no library is capable of matching (Tahnk, 4). However, the various information that is available for the child to access should be monitored carefully, as they may learn the wrong lessons. Children under two years of age can have difficulty understanding the events on the screen, though those who approach the end of their second year can learn with parental guidance (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1). As such, parents cannot leave them alone or expect to use their devices as pacifiers to distract the child from distress. They should instead focus on teaching the toddler about the world while using digital media as an assistance tool.
In addition to learning issues, children may experience language and self-regulation problems as a result of replacing traditional education with electronic devices. Instead of addressing their child’s distress or teaching them to express it in a more socially acceptable manner, patients will often distract them with mobile media (Radesky, Schumacher, and Zuckerman, 3). As a result, the child never learns the self-regulation mechanisms that many people take for granted in older children and adults, which can lead to issues in the future. Furthermore, many digital tools do not require the child to speak, only prompting them to listen and press buttons sometimes, and so their language learning may suffer as a result. Overall, parents should actively participate in their child’s education, especially with younger children below the age of 2.
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While there are benefits to using electronic tools in educating small children, they are often offset by the issues they tend to create. Digital media for small children tends to be highly stimulating, and screens generate blue light, both of which interfere with sleep, which is essential for growth. The tendency of parents to show children videos during meals as well as the low physical activity involved in sitting in front of a screen contribute to obesity. Also, children who interact with electronic devices to the detriment of playing with other people may have language development issues. Lastly, parents who use digital media to distract their children from distress may contribute to a failure to develop self-regulation skills. As such, people should be extensively educated on the dangers of electronic devices and their proper usage in the education of small children.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. 2016. Healthy Digital Media Use Habits for Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers. Web.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. 2016. Media and Young Minds. Web.
- Jenny S. Radesky, Jayna Schumacher, and Barry Zuckerman. 2015. Mobile and Interactive Media Use by Young Children: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown. Web.
- Jeana Lee Tahnk. No Date. The Right Technology for Kids at Every Age.