Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in digital technology use with children aged 0-12 years (OECD, 2018), especially with the introduction of touch screen, icon-driven tables, and the increased popularity of computer games, and consoles (X-Box, PlayStation etc.). Children 5-12 years are using digital technologies to satisfy an array of needs and interests, including using the internet to gain information, access and complete homework, research for educational purposes, participate in informal learning opportunities, leisure and recreational activities (e.g. you-tube videos and play online games).
Alongside families, educators must be aware that with increased exposure to digital technologies come increased risks. At Big Fat Smile, our Fun Clubs and Vacation Care (school holiday) programs are informed by evidence-based research, inclusive of how we successfully integrate the use of technology into our programs. Digital technology is only effectively integrated into our 5-12 years programs when used safely and appropriately. When using digital technology to support or complement our programs, our educators are mindful of the 24-hour movement guidelines (5-12 years). These guidelines state children should limit sedentary (non-active/sitting activities) recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day. Lower levels are associated with reduced health risks.
The recently released “Statement on young children and digital technologies” by Early Childhood Australia, also is reflected within our educational practices as this is relevant to children up to 16 years of age. When using digital technology in our Fun Club programs, educators reflect on the four principles to guide the ‘optimal use of technologies with, by and for young children (ECA 2018, p 2). Using the four principles below (ECA, 2018), educators consider the following when using and educating our children how to use digital technologies safe, responsible, proactive and effective ways;
STEM- What is this and does this involve technology?
STEM stands for ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths’, and therefore advocates for the use of technology with children in safe learning situations. Our Fun Club programs incorporate STEM-based activities that aim to engage, challenge and excite children about learning. The ‘technology’ aspect of STEM incorporates the use of digital technology. Educators encourage children to experiment, explore with various types such as; photography, coding, robotics, Lego mechanics or the use of stop motion apps to create stories around popular stories, scientific concepts etc.
Digital technology- safety considerations
As children increase their use of technology, educators in partnership with families, need to guide children on how to be digitally safe citizens. Tips that our educators recommend are:
- Educators/families share online experiences- check the appropriateness of the content, but also shows a joint interest in material viewed and educate children about pop-up material that may appear (can mean hidden costs to families).
- Inappropriate content accessed accidentally – educators/families should encourage children to report inappropriate content or anything online that may worry them.
- Have a service or family media plan- inclusive of internet safety rules (not disclosing personal information), safe places to use digital technology (open/public spaces- not bedrooms etc.), public charging stations (devices not charged in bedrooms at night )
- Limit access- children and educators/parents agree on times of appropriate use and the duration of use as soon as a child has access to digital devices.
- Educators/parents to check privacy setting on devices, use parental controls, use safe search settings on browsers and search engines (Some examples include: Liddle, ABC Kids, CBeebies, YouTube KIDS or KIDOZ)
- Block any in-app purchases if children access apps
- Conduct regular open, calm conversations about internet use to develop increased awareness about potential dangers
- Discuss appropriate online behaviour (how children should behave and engage with others online). This involves understanding what cyberbullying looks like and who they should report this to if they come across it or are victims. esafety.gov.au
Early Childhood Australia (ECA). (2018) Statement on young children and digital technologies. Canberra, ACT