Policy Brief

Digital Resources in Early Childhood Literacy Development

International Literacy Association
International Literacy Association
Publication Year:
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The everyday lives of children growing up in Western English-speaking countries are shaped by the ubiquitous presence of digital and interactive multimedia, often presented via technologies such as tablets and smartphones (i.e., touchscreens). Digital technologies are pervasive in homes, schools, and communities, yet beliefs about and recommendations for how they are used in early childhood vary widely. The prominence of so many differing views about digital technologies in early childhood can lead to great confusion for families, educators, and policymakers.

Current policy statements from a variety of sources vary widely in terms of the following:

  • How they define technologies:
  • Whether they include research studies informing their conclusions
  • Whether they are connected to the digital industry

For example, some argue that digital technologies should have a very limited role in early childhood contexts, as the use of digital technologies will come to supplant, rather than supplement, key learning opportunities such as hands-on experiences or social interaction (e.g., Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Alliance for Childhood, & Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment, 2012; Cordes & Miller, 2000; Miller, 2005).

Given the prominence of digital technology, others emphasize promoting healthy screen time habits and use. In 2011, for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised that children under 2 years of age avoid media use. However, in 2016, the AAP revised its guidelines to account for the abundance of new digital media. The AAP now emphasizes the importance of selecting digital media that are developmentally appropriate, with high-quality content. The AAP also emphasizes social interaction as an essential component of children’s screen time, a goal that is accomplished by having adults play or view along with children.

Still other policy statements convey similar recommendations but go a step further, arguing that when judiciously selected and strategically used, digital technologies enhance children’s opportunities for learning (e.g., Early Childhood Australia, 2018; Lerner & Barr, 2014; National Association for the Education of Young Children & the Fred Rogers Center, 2012, Scottish Government, 2013; U.S. Department of Education & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016).


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