Technology does not just mean television, and technology abounds in today’s world. Computers, televisions, smart phones, iPads, DVD players, MP3 players, and Wii games have become part of a shared vocabulary. Children today spend more and more time engaged with screens of every kind.[1]  Parents are already giving babies in strollers iPhones to play with, downloading apps for babies, and using versions of  iTunes with children’s songs that even very young children almost miraculously figure out how to use.

 A 2013 editorial in the Zero to Three magazine issue focusing on Media and Technology in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers states that “Media is here to stay…The question has changed from ‘Is media and technology good or bad for children’ to ‘How can we use media and technology responsibly and in helpful ways?’”[2]

How should children’s librarians, who serve as information resources for parents, deal with this question?

First, it is useful to look at the research that exists regarding the impact of technology and media use by infants and toddlers on child development. Although incomplete, researchers have been able to provide us with some information.

On the positive side:

  • Exposure to new media can be beneficial even for very young children if carefully designed. Computer play can involve exploration and discovery; it can help improve non-verbal skills, structural knowledge, long-term memory, manual dexterity, verbal skills, problem solving, abstraction, and conceptual skills.[3]
  • Use of computers can provide a creative approach to science and math and “encourage debate, adaptation, analysis, and celebration.”[4]
  • If public libraries aim to help improve literacy and narrow the digital divide, including some sort of technology into programs might thus be considered.

  • It is likely that more technological tools which have not yet been invented will be become everyday items in the near future for our youngest learners. Exposure to different types of new media may be useful to them in the future.

On the negative side:

  • One researcher claims that computers do not match children’s learning styles since children “learn through their bodies: their eyes, ears, mouths, hands and legs.[5]
  • There is some fear that electronic media will make books obsolete even though there is nothing quite like physically holding a book in your hands and sharing it enthusiastically with children.
  • Many adults have been wary of using electronic media with young children based on the 2011 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children under the age of two have no television time at all and that children between ages 3 and 5 limit television viewing to a maximum of 2 hours[6].

The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College produced a statement called “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8” which describes many of the issues.

Research suggests that passive watching of media is detrimental for young children, but engaged interaction with another human (preferably a parent) in a nurturing environment aids their development. [9]

In fact, Dr. Dimitri Christaki (an author of the original AAP statement against “screen time” for young children) recently published a new paper, “Interactive Media Use at Younger Than the Age of 2 Years: Time to Rethink the American Academy of Pediatrics Guidline?” distinguishing between the negative effects of passive television viewing and positive results of app play between child and parent that promote reactivity, interactivity, tailorability, progressiveness, and the promotion of joint attention.[10]

 Since research regarding the effect of technology use on very young children has not been in place long enough to reach any solid conclusions,  how do librarians working with very young children know what to do?


 To read about suggested ways to use new media in MGOL programs, click here.

For links to articles about media use with young children, click here.

To read what librarians have to say about new media and app recommendations, check out!


 [1] NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center. 2012.  “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Service Children from Birth through Age 8” p.2.

[2] Powers, Stephanie, ed. 2013.  ”This Issue and Why It Matters.” Zero to Three, 33, no. 4.

 [3] Haugland, S.W. 1999. “What Role Should Technology Play in Young Children’s Learning? Young Children 55, no. 1, pp. 26-31.

[4] Long-Breipohl, Renate. 2001. “Computers in Early Childhood Education: A Jump Start for the Future?” Gateways Spring/Summer 40.

[5] Haugland, S.W. 1999. “What Role Should Technology Play in Young Children’s Learning? Young Children 55, no. 1, pp. 26-31.

[6] Brown, Ari, et. al.  2011. “American Academy of Pediatrics: Policy Statement: Media Use by Children Younger than 2 Years.” portal: Pediatrics 2011;128:1040–1045doi; 10.1542/peds.2011-1753.

[7] Mistry, Kamila B., Cynthia Minkovitz, Dona M. Strobino, and Dina L. G. Borzehowski. 2007. “Children’s Television Exposure and Behavioral and Social Outcomes at 5.5 Years: Does Timing of Exposure Matter?” portal: Pediatrics 2007: 762-769. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-3573.

[8] “TEDxRainier – Dimitri Christakis – Media and Children”.

[9] Lauricella, Alexis R., et al.  2010. “Contingent computer interactions for young children’s object retrieval success.”  portal: Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 2010;31:362–369.

[10] Christakis, Dimitri A. 2014. “Interactive Media Use at Younger Than the Age of 2 Years: Time to Rethink the American Academy of Pediatrics Guideline?”  portal: JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(5):399-400. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.5081