Playing IT Safe portal shows educators how children can learn online safety through play
In May 2020 the Alanah and Madeline Foundation launched Playing IT Safe, a joint initiative of the Foundation, the Australian Federal Police and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. The Playing IT Safe web portal is freely available for early childhood educators and parents to support children’s learning about digital technology and online safety through play.
The pilot project, funded by Gandel Philanthropy, helped early childhood educators use play to teach young children about digital technology, the internet and how to stay safe online in ways appropriate to their age and stage of development.
The pilot itself involved a series of professional development sessions, followed by educators delivering activities from the Playing IT Safe resource. Educators reported back on their experience, and shared with the Foundation how it impacted on children’s understanding and use of digital technology.
About 1,000 educators, and more than 12,000 children participated in the pilot.
One of the key outcomes identified is that educators in early childhood are able to better support children’s learning and development in our technology-saturated world when they have an increase in confidence and understanding of their role in developing children to have appropriate use of technology.
How does Playing IT Safe increase confidence in educators?
After participating in tailored professional development sessions, and implementing Playing IT Safe activities, educators reported an increase in confidence and knowledge. The approach of using play – rather than technology itself – to build children’s skills and knowledge, was a key part of that.
“We saw educators’ practices evolve through the pilot project,” a Foundation spokesperson said.
“Educators at Gowrie Broadmeadows said in their reflections: “[We] had never considered the fact our smartwatches are digital technology. We allowed children to set timers on our smartwatches when outside undertaking activities. This was our suggestion, but children now follow that up and are building self-awareness around self-regulation and using technology to help manage a situation.”
The Playing IT Safe pilot project demonstrated that the resource is an excellent tool for building educator confidence in teaching children the foundations of digital literacy and online safety.
“It is so important to provide children with knowledge that will help them better grasp concepts and ideas about the internet and online safety as they head into primary school and beyond,” the spokesperson added.
For many participants, this was a new approach that fit with their educational philosophies and helped enhance their practice.
“It was a new thought process for us bringing safety directly to the children rather than just the parents and educators, and indirectly through our use and modelling in the classroom,” Neralie at Beck Street Kindergarten explained. “It was a very worthwhile experience for all of us, and [we developed a] collage to send and explain to parents in our daily diary.”
With ongoing support from Gandel Philanthropy, the Foundation intends to explore how it can take what educators and children have learnt through the Playing IT Safe pilot project to work with them to find authentic and effective ways at communicating and helping parents understand these messages.