Towards a Statement on young children and digital technology

Why is guidance on young children and digital technology needed now? As a Discussion Paper is released—Towards a Statement on young children and digital technology—co-chairs of ECA’s Digital Policy Group (DPG), Professor Susan Edwards and Professor Leon Straker, address this question and reveal some of the findings from work so far.  

You may have heard or seen that Early Childhood Australia (ECA) is developing a Statement on young children and digital technology. In developing the statement we have listened to what educators and parents think about young children and digital technology, as well reviewed the research evidence to analyse what it is actually telling us about young children and digital technology. This work has now been brought together in a Discussion Paper that ECA have now released for consultation.

Why do we now need a statement that guides us in regards to how young children engage in digital technology?

Digital technology is used in educational settings and workplaces around the world for a diverse range of tasks including communication, research, sharing information, socialising, playing and recording images and videos. It is increasingly present within family life, and many young children are interacting with apps, games and high-tech toys that are designed specifically for the under-five age bracket. As young children are born into this tech-connected society, early childhood professionals are increasingly responding to questions on the rightful role and optimal use of digital technology in early childhood settings.

While early childhood educators may be familiar with other types of technology being used in the early learning setting, such as mechanical or analogue technologies, the sector is still developing knowledge about the role of digital technology in early learning, its role in young children’s lives and what digital activities look like in early learning settings.

This is why the development of a statement that focuses specifically on digital technology is both important and timely. It will help early childhood professionals—and the sector as a whole—to build the knowledge base required to ensure that digital technology use in early childhood settings supports and promotes the best interests of young children.

In thinking about the statement, it has become clear that statements are not the same as guidelines. Guidelines provide recommendations for practice based on rigorous research and evaluation, whereas statements represent the views of an organisation based on the best available evidence. The ECA Statement on young children and digital technology will provide principle-based advice to help early childhood professionals make decisions about young children and digital technology that are relevant to the needs, expectations and experiences of their communities.

So what have we found so far? Seven key findings have been identified, the first three of which acknowledge the context in which the discussion is happening, while the last four help us to identify the areas on which the statement may focus.

The seven key findings are as follows:

  1. The sector believes a statement on young children and digital technology is needed to help early childhood professionals make decisions about, and advocate for, digital technology use that is in the best interest of the child.
  2. There are diverse opinions in the early childhood sector about how and why young children can use digital technology to support positive outcomes.
  3. Recognising that digital technology is part of many young children’s daily lives means that early childhood professionals need to consider how and why digital technology is used in early learning settings.
  4. Young children and their families need to build knowledge about how to be safe and active digital citizens when using digital technology in their daily lives.
  5. The health and wellbeing of young children using digital technology is important and includes children’s physical activity, posture, sleep, emotions and social interactions.
  6. Knowledge about digital play and pedagogy helps early childhood professionals integrate digital technology into play-based learning and intentional teaching experiences for young children.
  7. Relationships between children, families and early childhood professionals using digital technology matter.

We encourage everyone that works and cares for young children to read the discussion paper and give their feedback here: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/our-work/submissions-statements/eca-statement-young-children-digital-technology-use/

This blog was written by Professor Susan Edwards and Professor Leon Straker, co-chairs of ECA’s Digital Policy Group. You can learn more about the work of the DPG and the Statement by clicking here.

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Clare McHugh

Clare McHugh is a Project Manager in ECA’s Learning Hub. She is responsible for the Digital Business Kit, exploring possibilities for technology in the early childhood sector, and for Start Early, an initiative to develop long term strategies that prevent domestic and family violence. Clare has been thinking and writing about children, family and social policy for many years, including previously for the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council and the Australian government. Her background is in psychology and professional writing. She has worked in adult development and group facilitation, employer sponsored child care, family relationships and in the publishing industry. Outside of ECA Clare continues several writing and publishing projects through her freelance business.

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