Using digital media safely and creatively with young children: a self-study resource to support you at home and work

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Using digital media safely and creatively with young children: a self-study resource to support you at home and work

Digital Play for Young Children is an eight-week course for all caregivers which explores how our very young children interact with the digital world. Perhaps you are concerned about whether it is okay for your early years child to use digital devices for entertainment or learning? You might be wondering what they are watching or playing, whether it is good for them and how long is okay? Is it beneficial for them to play alone or should you play too? These are just a few of the concerns that it is often difficult for parents and other caregivers to find balanced and reassuring answers to.

In this stay at home period, it may be that these questions and concerns are more persistent than usual. At the same time, there is so much time to fill and digital media is on-hand and appealing to young children. If you are feeling this tension and would like an opportunity to consider the world of digital play, our latest self-study course offers an accessible research-based look at topics such as screen time, choosing apps, extending digital play, and real-world use of devices.

One of our previous course participants, who is also a childminder, expressed what many often feel:

There’s that guilt factor, or guilty secret, that (letting the children use) technology is the lazy way and doesn’t seem right somehow. Now I am making it a part of my week and programming my plan weekly.

The course is aimed at those with a primary role in the care of young children:

Parents/carers

In the home, digital devices are common. Parents can rely on them to occupy a child while they make dinner or a phone call, or take a shower! Parents and carers can also engage in play with their child through a digital medium, as well as extending this play into a ‘real’ environment such as in the garden or by baking a cake.

Childminders

Childminders have the mix of usually working in a home environment, while also caring for other people’s children. Digital devices might be expected by children accustomed to having them in their own homes, and they may be useful in helping a child feel at ease in a new place. However, childminders may believe their duty of care is to provide a play-based environment and worry that digital interferes with this. One of the most valued sessions by previous participants explores digital media use in the context of play and learning.

Nursery practitioners  

In early years settings digital devices are less common, however, there are often smartboards and tablets for shared activities with practitioners. It is beneficial for staff to have an understanding of children’s digital interests and use in the home, as this may extend the ways children are able to interact at nursery. Equally, it is helpful for practitioners to have a balanced view of benefits, risks and breadth of use as parents often look to staff for guidance in this area. Digital play can help develop the relationship between home and nursery.

Family health workers.

Health workers can be a very welcome knock at the door for parents at home with very young children. An awareness of the digital play landscape and a few ideas and resources on hand for a busy parent can bring welcome relief. It can also support the connection between parent and toddler when there’s a new baby in the family.

This list is in no way exclusive and we anticipate the course being of benefit to anyone with an interest in children's wellbeing and the digital world.

Digital Play for Young Children believes that you are the expert on your own situation. Circumstances vary; families are different; values and attitudes are personal. As you learn, we encourage you to be open to different views and to consider and challenge what you hear and read.

A previous participant and parent said:

I am more confident mainly. I feel that I now know that it is not a bad thing my son gets online play. It’s affirmed that I’m on the right path and I can say that to other mums!

Sometimes, being validated in what you are already doing as a parent or carer is the most powerful thing, especially amidst the strongly mixed feelings in the parent and early years community!

Visit the Digital Play for Young Children page on our website where you can sign up at a reduced rate during the coronavirus stay at home period.