How to Make Tech Time Meaningful

Even before stay-at-home orders necessitated online schooling and virtual playdates, digital technologies were becoming increasingly present in young children’s lives. The number of apps and digital games targeted at children has soared, and devices like smart speakers and digital fabrication tools are becoming common at home or in the classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic has made many families even more reliant on digital technology, which in turn has raised more questions and caused more confusion surrounding the topic of young children’s use of digital devices. 
A newly published resource from early childhood experts at the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) in Sausalito designed to assuage those concerns. Tech Time with Purpose: A Creative Approach to Using Digital Devices with Young Children provides actionable tips for adults to maximize the benefits of their child’s tech time while minimizing the risks. The resource specifically looks at seven digital technologies that can most commonly be found in homes and schools: digital games, coding, augmented reality, virtual reality, digital fabrication, social robots and conversational agents.
Rather than prescribing a rigid set of guidelines – such as limits for screen time or age restrictions – Tech Time with Purpose empowers parents to consider the needs of their unique child. That way, parents can make confident decisions about their child’s use of digital devices, so that the experience is both fun and builds important skills. 
With adult support, children can use digital devices to express their creativity, build social skills, take age-appropriate risks and even get physical activity – all important experiences that have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. A digital game that requires body movement will never replace outdoor exercise, and a video call with friends will never take the place of an in-person playdate. But when designed in a meaningful way, digital technology experiences can support children’s development, particularly at a time when so many aspects of our normal routines have been disrupted. 
Each section of Tech Time with Purpose is anchored by a list of actionable, easy-to-follow recommendations for parents to consider when setting up digital technology experiences for their child, or when determining if a particular technology is appropriate to introduce to their child. A number of these key recommendations are summarized in the “Quick Guide” below.
Tech Time with Purpose does not promote children’s use of digital technology, nor does it discourage it. Instead, it acknowledges that digital technology is a modern tool that many families have incorporated into their routines and daily lives, particularly during this time. In doing so, it supports parents to use that tool and navigate digital device use so that their child’s experience is meaningful, educational and positive. 
To read Tech Time with Purpose: A Creative Approach to Young Children’s Use of Digital Devices, visit

Joanna Kauffmann is the communications manager at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.



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