Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Release First Joint Policy Brief on Use of Technology with Young Children

Archived Information

Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Release First Joint Policy Brief on Use of Technology with Young Children

October 21, 2016

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services today released a policy brief on the use of technology with early learners to help families and early educators implement active, meaningful and socially interactive learning. The brief includes a call to action for researchers and technology developers, highlighting topics for further research and encouraging the development of research-based products.

"The early learning community has been wisely cautious about using technology with our youngest children," said Libby Doggett, deputy assistant secretary for Policy and Early Learning. "But technology, when used appropriately with caring adults, can help children learn in new ways – and lessen the growing inequity in our country. This brief helps early educators think about developmentally appropriate ways to use technology in their classrooms."

The brief, which was developed in consultation with the American Academy of Pediatrics, will help those who care for the nearly 36 million early learners ages birth to 8 years make wise decisions about media use, and provides four guiding principles for families and early childhood educators on the use of technology with young children. The guiding principles are:

  • Technology, when used properly, can be a tool for learning.
  • Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
  • Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children.
  • Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.

"For early learners, technology can provide opportunities to connect, create, and engage in meaningful learning experiences," said Joseph South, director of the Office of Educational Technology. "But this will only happen if families and early educators consider whether children are using technology in active, imaginative ways as opposed to just passively watching a screen. Active learning with technology is best when an adult is guiding and participating side-by-side with the child."

"The brain science is clear – in the earliest years, learning is dependent on adult-child interaction and on healthy relationships between children and their caregivers," said Linda Smith, deputy assistant secretary for HHS' Early Childhood Development. "We are excited about the new learning opportunities that technology can offer young children when parents and early childhood educators use it appropriately to support and supplement one on one interactions between children and their caregivers, both in the classroom and at home."

In 2013, the Obama Administration launched the ConnectED initiative and set a goal of connecting 99 percent of America's students to next generation broadband and high-speed wireless by 2018. This expanded access will support the effective use of technology to transform learning in our nation's schools. The Administration also has worked to expand access to high quality early learning, including early STEM education. The thoughtful use of technology by parents and early educators can engage children in key skills such as play, self-expression, and computational thinking which will support later success across all academic disciplines and help maintain young children's natural curiosity.