The Digital World for Little Ones

Written by Richard Waite, Early Years ICT Coordinator

Lorraine Kaye in her book “Young Children in a Digital Age” writes, “There is much debate about the impact of increased access to technology on young children's health and wellbeing, with claims that it damages their social skills and emotional development”

Many of the negative opinions about technology and young children are based around people’s misconceptions of what type of Early Years Technology children access, the biggest culprit seems to be screen devices, such as tablets. One of the biggest concerns seems to be around screen time and how much time is spent on tablets, as opposed to more traditional play with say sand and water.

The term used a lot around children and technology is ICT (Information Communication Technology). This for some parents conjures up images of children sat on tablets or computers all day at nursery, in addition to the time they spend on these devices at home already.

However having technology and understanding it, is essential in the 21st Century. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee wrote a report 2016-2017 that the UK maybe in crisis. It is estimated that in the future 90% of all jobs will require some IT skills, this maybe higher in the world of Science, which is why STEM or STEAM subjects are becoming so important.

The Digital World for Little OnesICT is a lot more than just tablets and computers, look at a baby playing with some glow pebbles that light up and change colour, or a toddler shining a torch in a dark den and finally a preschool child programming and navigating a Bee Bot around a treasure mat. This is Early Years Technology also known as ICT.

So what other ways does the digital world help our little ones? Let us use the iPad as an example. Imagine a child walking around with an iPad in the nursery garden taking photos or videoing the natural world outside, recording the birds singing, aeroplanes flying overhead or their friends running around playing whats the time Mr Wolf. Maybe looking back on what they have recorded with their peers later on. The iPad has become a very engaging and interactive tool for exploration.

An interactive whiteboard is another great tool, imagine connecting a microscope to it and looking at different types of insects or different rocks or stones collected from the garden or a local walk to the park.

So after you’ve done all that maybe we want to go onto the computer and look at the RSPB website or National Geographic Kids and explore more about wildlife found in our gardens or parks.

So we now know Technology helps our little ones to be explorers, I now want to move onto how technology helps with young children's literacy, from first reading to mark making and early writing.

The Digital World for Little OnesTechnology through e-books and story making packages, can support children's reading and help them be creative thinkers. A story can be read back to a child while they follow the words on the tablet. Some ICT including tablets can help children who are not confident with traditional pencil and paper to begin with, become confident later through exploring with styluses and other different mark making resources, like sticking a pencil in a holder attached to a Bee Bot robot, then programming it and watching it make a circle. A child uses a Smart Board with a range of tools to create a whole story of a prince rescuing a princess from a Dragon, or Gruffalo.

Early Years Technology is not solitary in the digital world, it is very interactive and engaging. A child in one part of the world is able to see relatives in another through Skype and other social media platforms.

However we must also be aware of the other side of technology. Screen time needs to be controlled and I would argue with those who say it cannot, technology has one simple thing to control it; a switch to turn it on or off anytime we choose.

Online Safety is something we all need to be aware of, anytime your young child goes online parent controls need to be in place restricting time spent online and also the content. Ensure you have anti virus and VPN filters to stop any viruses crashing your computers and making sure your electronic footprint and ID are not compromised.

For the little ones sites like the NSPCC, Internet Matters.Org, and Childnet, all have vital advice that will keep you and your children safe always.

Why not look up events like Safer Internet Day which happen on one day every year, to remind and update us on the best ways to keep your little one safe.

At Bright Horizons we have a range of Early Years Technology to support your little ones learning; we also have secure measures in place to ensure they are also safe when online.

If you have any questions around Early Technology (ICT) please speak to your child's nursery.