I often come across concerned parents who wonder if the use of technology in schools (or indeed anywhere) is such a good thing for their children. They ask me if 6 is too young, at what age should they get a tablet, when can they be left alone on the computers and so on

Research is patchy, and often subject to hysterical reporting (I have put a few links at the bottom of the article) – parents often find themselves with more questions than answers. It is unwise to give concrete answers, and indeed I always try not to. ‘Common sense’ advice: family devices that are shared, regular breaks etc are important. From a school perspective however we need to stress that we are trying to teach the responsible use of technology. Technology is not ‘going back in the box’ and we need to equip our children with the sense, the experience and the confidence to make technology work for them. The danger is that if families pretend it is not there, and children are not allowed to experiment they will be unable to monitor and recognise their own behaviour as they get older.

 

Naturally schools have a huge part to play in this, and the new curriculum has given us the scope to do this.

We are all role models

There can be no easy answers, and no easy way to teach responsibility but there can be no doubt that modelling the good use of technology is vital both at home and at school.

  • Teachers will model searching online for information
  • Model the tools we use to create using word processors, presentation tools and so on
  • Explain ways in which specific tools can solve specific problems
  • Parents can be encouraged to use technology alongside their children – work on homework projects together, read articles together, connect with family etc.

 

Making Mistakes

Mistakes will be made. Children may make inappropiate comments, or play games when they should be working. Thats why school blogs, school infrastructure, is so important. Far better something inappropiate is said on the school system than on the internet itself. VLE’s, private blogs, google apps all provide a safe environment so children can learn, and then practise, the skills needed to be a digital citizen.

We spend lots of time reinforcing friendship and learning behaviours – this is no different. Discussions around bullying, friendship groups, language, anger management; indeed anything that would be covered during ‘traditional circle time’ can also have an online element. Sharing our experience of technology use is important, to our children it will be a norm for them by the time they leave primary school.

 

Practical ideas for schools

  • Have a class ‘researcher’ whose job it is to research tricky questions and report back answers
  • Take part in collaborative projects which demonstrate the safe use of technology to both parents and children
  • Digital Leaders can be excellent pupil role models – demonstrating safe and sensible use of different technologies

 

Further reading:

Plowman L, McPake, J., Stephen C. (2010). The technologisation of childhood? Young children and technology in the home. Children and Society 24 (1) 63-74

Telegraph – Too young for technology?

Young Children and e-Reading, research to date and questions. (£)

 

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