Keeping the baby in the bath







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I have been spurred into action based upon a few coinciding events and conversations.

I had a discussion recently with an early years specialist for whom I have enormous respect. The discussion arose from her asserting that she advised early educators to avoid the introduction of technologies such as computers, ipods, ipads and the like until children were the age of two.

She was keen to point out the importance of ‘real-world’ play, exploration and learning. She described the urgent need for youngsters to learn through handling artefacts and objects, getting their hands dirty and getting outside. She was almost apologetic when she started putting her case to me (I’ve come across this before). I think that sometimes people think that because I am an advocate for technology that somehow any argument put forward for other routes to learning will be met with my disapproval or condemnation. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe in youngsters having as rich an experience of the world as it is possible to provide. This experience must reflect the way the world is. It must include opportunities to explore the full gamut.

Regarding this, there is a problem, well two problems really. Firstly, there is a problem of imbalance and secondly a problem with a failure to ask two important questions ‘So what?’ and ‘Where’s the learning?’

Let’s look first at balance. If a child’s only creative experiences were in the use of paint, they would be missing out on some pretty essential and significant other experiences such as clay, play-dough, coloured pens, pencils, crayons etc. This imbalance would be wrong and would need addressing. Would we ‘blame’ paint for this? Would we suggest that the appropriate age for the introduction of paint should be 2 years old? If there is an overuse of technology in a child’s early experience that is to the detriment of the child’s whole development, does it follow that the technology is bad or that its introduction should be delayed? I would argue not and that to delay its introduction would be equally damaging (in terms of imbalance). There may be some research or scientific evidence to suggest that infants and babies being exposed to technologies such as computers and ipads is detrimental to their eyesight and/or health  – I would be very interested to see examples of such research if anyone can point me towards it. (UPDATE: Since publishing, I have been directed to this article – My response is that most of the arguments used against screens could apply equally to books and would we really argue that infants should be deprived of books until the age of 2? ).

Interestingly, the following video clip was cited as exemplifying the problem of introducing technology too early.

To me, it exemplifies the importance of providing a rich balance of experiences. I would extend this to the over exposure to plastic, wood, primary colours and so on. I’ll say it again – Rich. Balance.

I would also add that it also highlights the importance of cooperative/collaborative engagement with technology (whether that technology is a book, magazine or an ipad). By this I refer to the power of an adult sitting down with a youngster and engaging with them and the technology together. Technology should never be a baby-sitter. See here:

This leads me to the second problem and this is linked to the seduction by ‘machines that go ping’ (more on this here on Pete Yeoman’s blog and here on Mark Gleeson’s ). For too many, technology in various forms is seen as a magic bullet. Let’s sit the baby or toddler in front of the TV, computer, ipad (whatever) cos they’ll inevitable learn loads by osmosis. Let’s buy a shedload of shiny stuff cos it’ll impress people and just look at how engaged the kids are! Let’s get some games consoles in class cos it’ll make learning fun. Please people, constantly ask yourselves these two questions: “Where’s the learning?” and “So what?”

The problem does not lie with the technology. It is in its use. It is not the tool… (heard that somewhere before?).

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8 thoughts on “Keeping the baby in the bath

  1. My Godsons are 2 and 4. The 4yr old taught himself a lot of the names of shapes on a car journey using some kids app on an iPad. Both of them have access to iPads, Android phones, netbooks and desktop computers (as long as they don’t pick they keys off the keyboard…) and building blocks, toy trains, toy cars, paint, pens, paper, modelling clay, the outside world, furniture to jump on and build castles from the cushions etc.
    During the day, they will sometimes play games or watch programmes on the ‘tech’ (even the TV, although that annoys them as someone else seems to have chosen what is on, and it doesn’t have a touchscreen). Generally, however, they make, paint or build stuff, become Ben 10, power rangers, Postman Pat, or a whole range of other characters. They make up their own too.
    In the evening, they are slightly (only slightly) more inclined to relax with an iPad. The 2yo prefers to play a racing game on my Android phone while painting or doing other games on the iPad – the 4yo prefers to single task with only one device.

    Both have had access to all the tech all their lives. Neither shows any signs of being unable to engage with the real world in other ways – both have impeccable manners (even, occasionally, when an interaction is just between the two of them), and they both want to read and write. Both ask critically probing questions. The 4yo is particularly keen to know why the moon seems to follow us, and can identify Venus and Mars, as well as wanting to know why helium keeps balloons in the air, where babies come from, and what the birds are saying when they sing songs. top 10 casino canada

    In short (ah, a bit late for that!), the kids sometimes like to use the tech as a baby-sitter, and can learn from it. But we would never dream of just dumping them in front of it, and sometimes put considerable effort into separating them from it. They learn, and enquire, and it makes no difference if it is ‘tech’ or cushions or paint or mud.

    • Thank you for your comment, Pat. I am heartened to hear your description of that rich, varied and balanced experience in which your godsons clearly thrive.

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  3. A very nicely balanced article, raising some challenging issues. I’ve always been a fan of the No-tech before 2 (the concept, not the at the stroke of midnight you hand them an ipod fast rule) after reading fantastic research about cognitive ability and technology. It mentioned which cognitive stages children develop the ability to understand and process the information. We also had an exceptional lecturer at university who I’ve continued to follow the research of in a similar vein. Very much agree that technology shouldn’t be a baby sitter. The linked article raises very valid points about how much indirect tech children see also. As a teacher I still love reading a passage and having students draw/interpret a text in all the different ways their imagination determines, which is not always the case when they’ve seen a digital interpretation of the text previously. The best bit is the world is always developing and we are always learning.

  4. Hear, hear to this article. I’m a firm believer in providing as many rich resources as possible for little children. By rich I mean everything from toilet roll tubes, glue and paint to climbing frames, trikes, sand and water. And where touch screen technology is concerned, there are plenty of content-free glittery apps that will add nothing to a child’s development. But there are also some incredibly high quality products which add dimensions to learning that print books cannot.

    I am bemused by this either/or debate. The skill is in curating what a child is offered. And rather than read copious amounts of ‘research’ about cognitive development, surely a parent can listen to their child to work out what they enjoy and go with it? No child living in an environment where curiosity is encouraged will willingly sit for hours pushing buttons on rubbish apps.

    One of the other advantages of touch screen technology, which is why I think it should be provided to tiny children, is that the pinching and swiping action that it relies on are necessary early learning skills. Research (the genuine empirically evidenced kind) shows that autonomy is a key motivator in learning. And touch screen technology provides early learners with a perfect environment to control.

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