Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - May 2014

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36 Hudson Valley Parent n May 2014 By SARAH COPPOLA T oday's toddlers are growing up in a very different world than their parents did: a digital world. Most families today own at least one touch-screen device — whether it's a smartphone, handheld device or tablet — and toddlers are instinc- tively drawn to them. The lights, the sounds, and of course the consid- erable amount of attention parents give the devices turn them into com- pelling magnets for little children. This leaves today's parents with a new crop of questions: Do we em- brace toddler apps with open arms? How developmentally appropriate is this technology for our little ones? What are the benefits and disad- vantages of this digital era when it comes to our toddlers? Patti Summers, an early childhood educator for more than 30 years and the head of the parenting program at the Mandell School in Manhattan, was inspired to write a book on this very topic when she started to notice big differences in the children enter- ing her toddler program. The result, "Toddlers on Technolo- gy," is a collaborative effort between Summers, neuropsychologist Dr. Ann Desollar-Hale, and economist Heather Ibrahim-Leathers —combining their experience and knowledge in early childhood education, clinical neuro- psychology and practical parenting. The book serves as a guide to help parents navigate the raising of these digitally-influenced toddlers — or "digitods." What makes these "digitods" dif- ferent from previous generations? "Digitods are extremely enthusi- astic about learning," says Summers. "They are training themselves to learn at a very early age because they can learn without pressure." As Summers notes, a device like the iPad doesn't care when you get the right answer. Instead, a child receives praise whenever he or she gets the right answer. "That can make learning a lot of fun," she says. "I've seen 2-year- olds who may not be able to speak in complete sentences yet, but can name their colors, shapes and some of their numbers and letters. And that is an enormous change." Amanda Rushkowski, a mother from Round Top, says her 2-year-old son loves spending time with her smartphone. "Charlie has learned about various animals and bugs from an app that names different animals and bugs for the letters of the alphabet and gives a piece of information about each," she says. Aside from the educational ben- efits, most parents also admit that allowing their children to use touch- screen devices makes their own lives a little bit easier. We can all relate to those times when we're trying desperately to keep a toddler quietly entertained against all odds — in waiting rooms, restaurants, during baby's nap, long car rides, etc. There's no doubt that handing a child a device can be an easy solution to grabbing a few mo- ments of much-needed peace. "I don't like to rely on screen time a lot during our day, so I tend to limit Raising 'digitods' Technology and toddlers — how worried should we be? The key to raising digitods is maintaining a healthy balance. Chloe, 4, and Xander, 2, each have their own tablets. "I don't set specific limitations, but I have the tablets and they have to ask for them," says their mom, Kayla Bradford. "After a while, I take them away and tell them it's time to play with toys instead."

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