We have all seen the astonishing YouTube videos of babies masterfully using technology and moments when they swipe magazines like iPads. This topic of toddlers and technology invariably brings on a robust debate -- with experts positing if, when and how children should be exposed to technology.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages TV and other media use by children younger than two years old; the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Roger's Center point out a distinction between passive screen time and active screen time; and a report in Pediatrics found that preschoolers who were exposed to visual media designed to be educational and promote healthy social behaviors, later had better scores on social competence and behavior evaluations.
The reality is that technology is part of our lives -- and this is every bit as true for children. Common Sense Media reported that more than a quarter (29%) of parents have downloaded apps for their kids. But, because of the abundance of tech toys and apps targeting our children -- 72 percent of iTunes' top-selling education apps are designed for preschoolers and elementary school children -- and because all screen time (and apps) are not created equal, we must be critical of which technologies we allow our children to use.
The most valuable toys for our children are designed to promote interactivity, imaginative play and development. And that should be particularly true of digital toys and apps. Some of the best tech-play experiences for children build off of traditional play patterns and toys -- such as role play and playset play -- helping children to understand cause and effect, develop fine motor skills, and take early imagination to a new level.
But perhaps the most powerful element of toy design is promoting engagement between a child and parent, sibling, friend or sitter. A study from theChildren's Media Center at Georgetown University shows interactivity and adult modeling help children learn a task better than passive viewing of the same material.
But let's not kid ourselves -- it's our job as parents to monitor and engage in play together with our children. And, at the end of the day, it's important that we can provide our kids with a well-rounded toy box, which includes both traditional and tech toys.
Tony Favorito, director of product design at Fisher-Price, will be speaking on the official SXSW Interactive "Toddlers and Technology" panel along with mom, wife of Scobleizer, and conference and event planner Maryam Scoble; Trackychief evangelist and Sevans Strategy owner Sarah Evans; and moderator and Huffington Post executive lifestyle editor Lori Leibovich. The panel is happening during SXSW in Austin, Texas on Sunday, March 10th at 3:30 p.m. CT at the Hyatt Regency Austin.