Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education

Facing the Screen Dilemma

Did you know: that on any given day, 64% of babies between 1 and 2 watch TV and videos for an average of slightly over 2 hours; that in 2011 there were 3 million downloads just of Fisher Price apps for infants and toddlers; that estimates of how much time preschoolers spend on average with screen media range from at least 2.2 hours to as much as 4.6 hours per day?

Research tells us that developing children thrive when they are talked to, read to, played with and given time for creative play, physically active play, and interactions with other children and adults. And there’s no research showing the benefits of introducing children to new technologies in the first years of life. Yet educators face increasing pressure to increase the amount of time children spend with digital technologies in early childhood settings, taking valuable time and resources away from activities proven to benefit learning and development. That’s why CCFC is proud to announce the publication of Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young children, technology and early education. Created with our friends at the Alliance for Childhood and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE), and packed with relevant research and practical tips, Facing the Screen Dilemma is the first guide designed to help early educators make informed decisions about whether, why, how, and when to use screen technologies with young children.

Facing the Screen Dilemma evolved naturally from CCFC’s ongoing advocacy to reduce children’s screen time. In 2011, when the National Association for the Education of Young Children—the nation’s premier professional organization for early childhood educators—began revising its position statement on Technology in Early Childhood Programs, we urged NAEYC to join the public health community in recommending strong limits on the time young children spend with screens. Our efforts led NAEYC to strengthen a disappointing first draft, but we heard repeatedly from early childhood educators that the final version was still lacking. They were looking for information and guidance in working with parents around screen time at home, for sorting through the marketing hype, and for making evidenced-based decisions about using—or not using—screen technologies with young children.

We created Facing the Screen Dilemma to meet those needs. It provides a much-needed overview of the research on young children and screen time. It also offers practical considerations and concrete advice for caregivers using screen technologies in their settings, and for those resisting pressure to abandon screen-free policies.

Facing the Screen Dilemma arrives at a time of heightened concerns about the amount of time children spend with screen media. Excessive screen time is linked to problems like childhood obesity, sleep disturbance, and poor school performance, yet children of all ages are spending more time than ever in front of screens. Two new surveys from the Pew Internet and American Life Project and Common Sense Media highlight widespread concern among teachers that children’s constant use of digital technology hampers attention span and their ability to complete difficult tasks.

While Facing the Screen Dilemma was written for early childhood professionals, parents will find the research sections and practical suggestions helpful in making decisions at home. If you have children in daycare or preschool settings, we urge you to share the guide with providers and teachers.