Healthy Children - October 2011


Tech Time! Computers and Preschoolers

Laptops, desktops, notepads—they seem to be everywhere! Like many other kinds of technology, computers can help children learn. They can also contribute to problems that interfere with learning. What can adults do at home or at preschool to be sure that a computer is an asset to young children?

Be aware of health issues.

  • Don’t start too young. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adults discourage all "screen time"—including computer use—for children under age 2. Babies’ and toddlers’ time is better spent in active play and interaction with people and things in the world around them.
  • Let preschoolers use the computer only for short periods of time (10-20 minutes). Time limits can help prevent obesity, eye problems, and other health concerns.
  • Encourage children to use laptops or notepads at desks or tables, not while lying on the floor. Good posture will protect their backs, necks, wrists, and arms.
  • Keep in mind that time at the computer is time away from active play, looking at books, and other worthwhile activities.


Monitor children's computer use.

  • Put the computer in a public space where an adult can see children using it.
  • Keep up with what children are doing on the computer. Be ready to answer their questions or read aloud from a Web site if needed.
  • Help children figure out how to use software or games but try to avoid telling them what to do.
  • Block or filter Web sites that are unsuitable for children.


Know what’s in the software, games, or Web sites children use.

  • Read reviews of software and games or try them out before buying.
  • Provide open-ended games and software that can support creativity, problem solving, number sense, and pre-literacy skills.
  • Choose software, games, and Web sites designed for preschool-age children that also promote pro-social values. (Stealing or fighting should not be made to seem “fun.”)


Help children extend what they learn at the computer.

  • Invite children to explain to you what they’re doing while on the computer.
  • Let children dictate their own stories while you type their words. Help them print stories or pictures they create on the computer to use in collages and displays.
  • Let children use the computer with peers. They can practice taking turns, learn rules of fairness, and become "experts" about a program, game, or Web site.
  • Offer children board games, active games, and other activities related to things they do during computer time.


The opinions, resources, and referrals provided on the IEL Web site are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to take the place of medical or legal advice, or of other appropriate services. We encourage you to seek direct local assistance from a qualified professional if necessary before taking action.

The content of the IEL Web site does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education; nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education.

Reprinted with permission from Illinois Early Learning |