Recently, I was asked to offer comments/ideas on a post by MagistraM. She gifted her newly 5 year-old daughter an iPod Nano. She specifically wants the device to be a source of learning for the child. I left her a fairly long comment, and I wanted to re-post it here for you to examine.
Here is my comment to her. I invite your thoughts.
I think I may be the lone dissenter here.
I think this is a question of attention and perception. Most children at that age do not have sufficient mental abilities (nor should they) to truly differentiate the two. That is to say, all too often, children at a young age do not know how to *not* follow all of the stimulus around them with their attention.
For example, you and I know how to ignore certain external stimuli, as well as distracting internal stimuli (i.e. thoughts) when we are concentrating on something else. Children do not. Often, attention and perception are not separate at such a young age. This is common, and not bad.
Children tend to learn this in the structured environment of school since school expects a child to not necessarily follow their attention everywhere it wants to go.
Also, I would argue that children at her age should be involved almost exclusively in imaginative play. It is in the context of re purposing everyday items into different items (i.e. the broom into a horse) that higher order cognitive abilities form at a young age. This is a crucial step that is often usurped by screen time.
Now I am terribly hypocritical of this, as I am working on a project and my girls are watching Dora. So I am not practicing what I preach as much as I ought, but nonetheless it is an arguable position.
So, is it bad to give her an iPod? No, not necessarily.
I guess the question becomes, it is a good thing?
I question that.
First, how much can she really learn at that age? Not a whole lot, I’d argue. The reason being, she does not have a sufficient set of cognitive schema through which to analyze new information. So, without a constructed lens through which to view new information, it will all seem a bit foreign.
Not only that, I suspect there isn’t much she *should* learn from an iPod at that age that she wouldn’t be better served by interacting with an adult.
Now, give her an iPod so she can listen to her music when she wants to? Sure.
But to give her an iPod because it is specifically a learning tool? Not so sure I buy that.
But then, it may just be me.