Monday, July 28, 2014

A Special Education teacher discusses screen time for the youngest users

After we printed Shelly's great post about limiting screentime for the birth-three years old population, we got a response from a reader. David L. Curry sent us a great message on our Facebook page, and I felt it was good enough to share with everyone!
If you have a response to either the original post, or David's response, please message us on Facebook or send an email to We'd love to share more reader perspectives!

I am a special education teacher who uses iPads in the classroom. I'm also a proud grandpa to a beautiful 21 month old little girl. I know that my views on the subject might not be the norm, but I have learned something interesting along the way in my experiences of using screen time with my granddaughter.

First of all, I'm a firm believer that human interaction is the best interaction a baby can have. Even though there are many apps out there that cater to the infant (e.g. the plethora of Fisher-Price apps) I don't consider them an alternative to rattles, mobiles or the happy faces of parents. In short, I don't feel there's a need to substitute an electronic device for a parent at this stage in a child's life. Why would any parent want to do so anyway? Heck, I even watched my granddaughter sleep! As my granddaughter grew older and reading to her became more prevalent and intimate, I knew that the time could be right to introduce some screen time to her under the same circumstances. She has begun to learn letter & number names, shapes, colors, and so on, and she continues to enjoy books. These are the kinds of apps that I share with her, and I set a limit of 15 minutes at a time for this type of activity. The funny thing about this is that she usually tires of the iPad before time is up. I can see it in her eyes and her little body language. She'd rather be playing on the floor with blocks, going through her letter cards, reading REAL books or playing in her tent. So, that works out great! I'm not complaining!
As an educator, I don't see any reason for a very young child to spend more than 30 minutes a day on a device even if it's only filled with educational apps. Unfortunately, we know in the real world, that's not the case. Even with educational apps, I wouldn't expect a child under the age of seven to need more time than that. Above that age, it certainly is understandable because of more advanced learning skills, research needs and writing expectations. If there's one point that I want to make clear to parents is that devices like the iPad are an enhancement to learning, not a replacement. They're not there to replace the tried and true methods we've come to rely on, and they definitely are not a replacement for a parent's involvement in their child's education. If they need proof, I can send them a picture of my granddaughter and me with her iPad. It tucks in nicely right between us.

*** Thanks for sharing, David!

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