Many of the Mojomums children received tablets this Christmas – did yours? With almost 40 per cent of pre-school children using tablets and one in 10 owning their own[i], Professor Jackie Marsh, an expert in digital literacy and learning, shares her tips for parents looking to get the best out of technology for today’s tech-savvy iTots:
- Play and learn together: Children’s learning is enhanced when parents join. So play games, draw or write on the tablet and teach your child just as you would using pen and paper. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not always there – children also need to learn to use tablets independently.
- Choose high quality apps: Not all apps need an overt educational focus; the best apps combine fun with learning and don’t use a ‘skills and drills’ type approach.
- Mix it up: Just like choosing a variety of toys and books, children should have a range of apps so they don’t play the same games repeatedly. Choosing a mix of games that focus on early literacy or numeracy skills; stories; writing; drawing; problem-solving and entertainment apps will help ensure your kids don’t get bored.
- Create things together: Take photographs or make films using apps and then discuss your creations to foster your child’s language and creativity. If you’re not very confident using tablets in this way, teenagers in the family are often very happy to help out! Apps with parent portals or feedback mechanisms are a great way to see what your child has been achieving and offer the opportunity for you to reward them.
- Create a folder all of their own: Give your child their own folder for their apps. They’ll get used to finding their apps there and will be less likely to find and use age-inappropriate apps.
- Manage tablet time: For most children, technology is one element in a busy and active life that also includes playing with toys or being outdoors, reading, writing, drawing and so on. Pre-schoolers should ideally have no longer than 1-2 hours interaction a day with screens of all kinds (e.g. tablets, televisions and computers).
- Use privacy settings and safety controls: You won’t always be around to oversee your child’s tablet time. They may get online without you realising, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Use a password to lock the tablet and manage privacy settings. For example, YouTube has a simple ‘Safety mode’ on / off button at the bottom of the screen.
- Teach your child to respect the tech: Tablets can get damaged, so it’s best to teach careful use from the start. Developing a set of rules such as: use clean hands; sit in a safe place where the tablet is well-balanced; no drinks nearby; turn off when finished to save the battery; keep the volume low and so on.
- Actively manage app downloads and in-app purchases: Leaving the choice entirely to your child could mean they choose bad quality apps. Ensure passwords are set up for downloads and in-app purchases so you don’t end up with a costly bill.
- Set a good example: If you check your email or texts every five minutes, your child will think it’s OK to do the same. Ensure your own use of tech doesn’t get in the way of good quality interaction with your child.
Five apps recommended by Professor Jackie Marsh
- Endless Alphabet – An interactive educational app that teaches children ABCs and builds vocabulary. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/endless-alphabet/id591626572?mt=8
- Mickey’s Magical Maths World – An immersive playground where children develop early maths skills alongside their favourite Disney characters. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/id925134465
- My Story: Book Maker for Kids – Combines drawing, stickers, photos, voice, and text to promote literacy, language development, and creativity in an ebook format. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/my-story-book-maker-for-kids/id449232368?mt=8
- Nighty Night – Designed to nurture a daily go-to-sleep pattern with cute animals, lullaby music and narration. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/nighty-night!-hd-bedtime-story/id428492588?mt=8
- Puppet Pals HD – Allows users to create their own puppet shows. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/puppet-pals-hd/id342076546?mt=8