What’s interesting about this article on phones is what we don’t need to see in order to draw a conclusion. As its author, University of New England lecturer Jo Bird, says, this research isn’t looking at screen time as such. It reveals what we can learn about ourselves, as reflected by children.
Screens are everywhere, including in the palms of our hands. Children see how much time we adults spend on our phones, and therefore how much we seem to value these devices – and they want to be a part of it.
Children see us constantly looking up information we need to know, and being continuously connected. It’s only natural that they should want to copy this behaviour in their play, and ‘practise being an adult’.
Most people have an opinion about children and technology, and the media regularly present stories of their potential for learning, or horror stories of the damage they can cause. My research takes a slightly different tack.
copy behaviour in their play and practise being an adult
Rather than studying children’s screen use per se, I looked at how they play with old and discarded devices, such as a hand-me-down phone handset or an old and defunct laptop that has otherwise outlived its usefulness.
Many early childhood education centres contain play spaces set up to mimic situations in everyday adult life. Examples include ‘home corner’ containing kitchen equipment, of other situations such as offices, hairdressing salons, doctors’ surgeries, and restaurants. These spaces might also let children play at using mobile phones, computers, iPads, EFTPOS machines, or other electronic devices.
I observed classes of 4 and 5-year-olds at two early education centres as they played imaginatively using technologies, to find out how they use devices in their play.