Do preschoolers need mandatory screen time?

May 25, 2011 — If we don’t act now, the pressure on early childcare programs to incorporate screen time into their core curriculum will intensify.  With preschoolers already spending an average of 32 hours per week with screens outside of classrooms, the last thing they need is mandatory screen time in school or daycare. 

The National Association for the Education of Young Children has issued a draft of its new position statement on Technology in Early Childhood Programs.  Because NAEYC is the nation's premier professional organization for early childhood educators, the statement will have a profound effect on young children's media use both in and out of classrooms. 

NAEYC clearly put a lot of effort into crafting this statement, but the draft’s recommendations are troubling.  As it stands, the statement:

  • Undermines major public health efforts to reduce screen time in order to help curb childhood obesity and other child wellness problems.  It does not support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of no screen time for children under two and limited screen time for older children.  In fact, reducing the amount of time children spend with screens isn’t even a stated priority.  
  • Prescribes that screen technologies should be included in all early childhood settings, regardless of the age of the children served or type of program.  Even play-based and outdoor preschools will be expected to incorporate screens. 
  • Provides no objective criteria or guidance to educators about whether or when to incorporate screens into their classrooms. 
  • Does not address the growing problem of screen-based commercialism in preschools.

We are sending extensive comments to NAEYC outlining our concerns, but they need to hear from you, too.  To submit your thoughts, please email by May 31.  Be sure to indicate if you're a NAEYC member, an early childhood educator, or a parent of a young child.   And feel free to use our talking points listed below.

Talking Points for Comments to NAEYC:

-- NAEYC’s statement on Technology in Early Childhood Programs should support the public health community’s recommendations of no screen time for children under two and limited screen time for older children.  Instead, the current draft undermines national efforts to address childhood obesity and other wellness problems.

-- The draft mandates all childcare and preschool programs include screen technologies.  Yet there is no evidence in the research that having screen technology in an early childhood setting provides any comparative advantage to young children.

-- Requiring children to spend time with screens in preschools will take time away from activities with proven benefits—like engaging in creative play or interacting with adults.

-- It is irresponsible to advocate for the use of screen technologies without addressing the commercialism that is so rampant in screen media for children.

We realize the comment process is a little more work than signing your name to a pre-written letter, but we hope you'll take the time.  Last summer, when NAEYC first announced it was revising its statement, we urged you to write to NAEYC and many of you responded.  As it stands, the statement on Technology in Early Childhood Programs is likely to increase both the time that children spend with screens and the amount of commercialism to which they are exposed.  It is more imperative than ever that NAEYC hear from you. 

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