Big Fat Smile issues digital technology statement to ensure safe engagement with tech
Given society’s increasing reliance on devices of many kinds, early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider, Big Fat Smile, have released a statement outlining their philosophical perspectives, position and beliefs about working alongside families to ensure that children are safely engaging in digital technology in a way that will enhance their skills in play, problem-solving, lateral thinking, and learning.
Children and adults are exposed to a rapidly evolving digital culture, with technology present in many forms, including computers, tablets, digital televisions, smartphones and watches, and interactive smartboards, Big Fat Smile said. Such devices serve many functions, including connecting people, sharing information, entertainment and recreational purposes, education and work.
“As an organisation, we recognise that not all children have equal access to digital technology based on their varying circumstances (socio-economic resources, geographical location, gender and age), therefore, it’s important we don’t assume as educators that all children growing up in today’s digital world have the same understanding or experience,” Big Fat Smile emphasised.
“Digital technology is only effective in educational programs when used safely and appropriately. To ensure the digital safety of very young children, we align our use of technology with the recently released Australian 24-movement guidelines” the provider noted.
The guidelines recommend that children under two years of age should not participate in sedentary (non-active/sitting) screen time at all, and children aged three to five years of age should not participate in more than one hour of sedentary screen time per day.
The recently released “Statement on young children and digital technologies” by Early Childhood Australia, is also reflected within Big Fat Smile’s educational practices, the statement noted, saying that the provider has adopted the four principles noted in the statement; relationships, health and well-being, citizenship and play and pedagogy; “all of which are considered when determining the optimal use of technology within a learning context that is developmentally appropriate for the needs and interests of our children attending our services.”
Based on the 24-hour movement guidelines, Big Fat Smile said, families will observe that children under two years of age who are attending early learning with the Group ”will not be engaging in the use of iPads or smart boards etc. Educators in this age group promote play-based learning that encourages a learning environment enriched with personal interactions, hands-on experiences and opportunities that enable children to further develop a variety of developmental skills such as levels of independence, self-help skills, development of small and large muscles (motor development), socio-emotional skills and language skills.”
As well as the 24 hour movement guidelines, Big Fat Smile drew on research which supports that infants and toddlers learn best through live interactions with other people and real-life experiences in making this decision, noting that the use of technology “is not recommended as it can potentially impair important development skills such as expressive and receptive language skills, problem-solving abilities, attention span, fine motor dexterity, large motor skills, emotional skills such as empathy and social abilities.”
For children aged three to five years of age, the integration of digital technology into educational programs is continually being evaluated by educators who have a strong understanding of child development theory and developmentally appropriate practices, the statement read.
“Within Big Fat Smile services, the passive use of digital technology is discouraged. Educators support children to develop ‘technology handling’ skills in an environment that doesn’t diminish their ability to socialise with peers and further promote healthy cognitive, social, emotional, physical and linguistic development.”
“Within our organisation’s educational ethos, digital technology is seen as a complementary learning tool that aims to further enhance children’s levels of creatively, real-life exploration, lateral thinking, conversation and physical activity, rather than replace these experiences. For example, reflective of past research, the use of ‘educational’ apps are monitored by educators to ensure that some basic principles are followed to ensure the safety of the children, such as the apps allow children to be actively involved in the content, they are engaging, meaningful and encourage social learning situations.”
The statement also referenced educators as powerful role models in the digital domain, noting that educators are required to model self-regulated use of digital technology in the presence of children, recognising the importance of personable, meaningful and engaging social interactions between children and families.
For example, educators use a digital app called ‘Kinderloop’ to share information about children and how they engage in educational programs. However, educators ensure that their use in front of children is minimal, to ensure their levels of engagement are not impacted with the children.
To read the statement in full, please see here.