A Nurturing Potential team Internet-based report


There's a considerable belief that computers may not be the appropriate type of educational technology that was initially assumed to be the case.

When we (today's parents) think back to our own childhoods we tend to recall the enjoyment and excitement we derived from the most basic of technological aids to study.  Depending on how old we are, it may have been the video game, the simple TV screen, or (dare I reveal my age?) the old-fashioned radio set.  (At least I didn't call it a wireless set!)

Current research suggests computers may be stunting children's intelligence and social skills - and may be damaging their health.  Some experts even suggest that computers may be inappropriate educational tools for children, killing the very creativity the computer industry needed to encourage.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, director of the Institute for the Future of the Mind at the James Martin 21st Century School, University of Oxford is a noted advocate for a reduction in the amount of scientific technology being fed to children and a return.  Greenfield believes that, based on the assumption that young people spend between six and nine hours daily gazing into small and large computer screens, their minds may be developing differently from previous generations.  According to a report in the Sunday Times,  "The brain," she says, "has plasticity: it is exquisitely malleable, and a significant alteration in our environment and behaviour has consequences." 

She is also reported as saying: "Those who place their faith in technology to solve the problems of education should look more deeply into the needs of children. The renewal of education requires personal attention to students from good teachers and active parents, strongly supported by their communities. It requires commitment to developmentally appropriate education and attention to the full range of children’s real low-tech needs — physical, emotional, and social, as well as cognitive."

The American-based Alliance for Childhood (  states that "we are worried about the harm done to children’s health,development, and learning in today’s media-saturated, commercially-driven culture. It’s clear that both the nature of what children encounter on screens and the amount of time they spend with screens are vital issues. We agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics and other public health organizations that many young children are spending too much time with screens—and that screen time should be discouraged for infants and toddlers, and carefully limited for older children.

"In the interests of children’s wellbeing, we believe the early childhood community needs to study the issues surrounding screen technologies, make informed decisions about their use in classrooms and child care settings, and work with parents to manage screen time and content in ways that best serve young children."

Smart boards. Smartphones. Tablets. E-books, and more. The rapid influx of new screen devices poses a special challenge for the early childhood community . . .

They are evolving so quickly that our grasp of how to make and operate them has rapidly outpaced our understanding of the educational, developmental, ethical, and social ramifications of their design and use.

There is a dearth of independent research about their impact—and most of what does exist focuses on television. Setting limits on the time young children spend with screen technologies is as important as monitoring content is for their health, development, and learning. The new technologies haven’t displaced television and video in children’s lives—they have added to screen time.

And time with screens takes away from other activities known to be more beneficial to their growth and development. On any given day, 29% of babies under the age of 1 are watching TV and videos for an average of about 90 minutes. Twenty-three percent have a television in their bedroom.

Research links many of the health and social problems facing children today to hours spent with screens.

Screen-time takes children away from hands-on creative play—the kind of give-and-take activities that children generate and control, and that are specific to their interests and abilities. Screens also take time away from children’s interactions with caring adults. Even when parents co-view television or videos with children, they spend less time engaged in other activities with their children. And parents talk less to children when they are watching television together than when they are engaged in other activities.

Given that children’s screen time increases as they get older, it’s important to note that negative effects continue through adolescence. Time with television and video games has been linked to problems with attention. Adolescents who watch 3 or more hours of television daily are at especially high risk for poor homework completion, negative attitudes toward school, poor grades, and long-term academic failure

Furthermore, given the current concerns about children's obesity, it should be noted that, starting in early childhood, time with screen media is an important risk factor for childhood obesity.  The more time preschoolers spend watching television, the more junk food and fast food they are likely to eat.


More independent research is needed on the impact of screen technologies on young children.  But whether you believe that early childhood settings should include screen time or not, there is enough evidence to draw these conclusions: Many young children are spending too much time with screens at the expense of other important activities. There’s no evidence that screen time is educational for infants and toddlers, and there is some evidence that it may be harmful. Some carefully monitored experience with quality content can benefit children over 3. But what’s most important for children is lots of time for hands-on creative and active play, time in nature, and face-to-face interactions with caring adults. And, regardless of content, excessive screen time harms healthy growth and development.


The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the NationalResource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education recommend the following guidelines for screen time in early care and early education settings:

• In early care and education settings, media (television [TV], video, and DVD) viewing and computer use should not be permitted for children younger than two years.

• For children two years and older in early care and early education settings, total media time should be limited to not more than 30 minutes once a week, and for educational or physical activity use only.

• During meal or snack time, TV, video, or DVD viewing should not be allowed.

• Computer use should be limited to no more than 15-minute increments except for homework and for children who require and consistently use assistive and adaptive computer technology.

• Parents/guardians should be informed if screen media are used in the early care and educationprogram.

• Any screen media used should be free of advertising and brand placement. TV programs, DVD,and computer games should be reviewed and evaluated before participation of the children to ensure that advertising and brand placement are not present.

American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (2011). Caring for our children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs (3rd ed.). Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.