First Time Online: How To support your child's ICT skills
Sarah CBeebies Grown-ups Team
A baby using a computer
CBeebies First Time Online is a selection of interactive activities, specifically designed for young children (2-3 yrs old) who may not be very familiar with using the internet on a desktop/laptop computer or even a touch-screen. It allows them to practice basic skills such as using a keyboard and mouse or learning how to use a touch screen on the tablet or smart phone. First Time Online allows children to gain confidence in using their IT skills in a safe place, where they can play games featuring some familiar and favourite CBeebies characters.
Lydia Plowman, Professor of Education and Technology at Edinburgh University has been conducting some research into the learning benefits of going online , the CBeebies website and how parents can support their child’s development.
She shares her findings here:
What sort of worries do parents have when their children play online for the first time?
For children in this age range the main concerns are:
- How long is OK for my child to spend playing online?
- What kind of support children need
- Getting the balance right between sitting with them at the device and leaving a child to play on their own.
Parents need to work out how much access they want to give their child. Most parents will feel that they don’t want their child to spend too long with a computer at this age – they want them to be playing with toys, playing outside and playing with others. It’s worth thinking about what you feel comfortable with.
Some parents also worry about whether it’s OK to leave their child to play a game or explore a website on their own. There are no hard and fast rules about this – or any of the other concerns that parents may have.
What are the key benefits young children can gain from online play?
We can think about the key benefits in three main ways:
- what they learn about the specific content of a game (such as shapes or colours or numbers)
- what they learn about how to learn (such as how to make choices, how to keep trying things out)
- what they learn about technology from interacting with the device
The first two are the most important as learning to use a computer or a touchscreen device is not so difficult for young children as long as they have some support getting started.
We also know that children often make their first steps with letter and number recognition as a result of playing online. This can be a very engaging way for children to become familiar with letters and numbers and it’s worth thinking about how you could supplement this. Your child is more likely to benefit if you are able to provide a range of activities both at and away from the computer.
Playing online can really help to develop children’s strategies for learning. With support, children can learn to play games by making choices and beginning to think about what will happen if I do this? This can be valuable learning, especially as it can also help children to develop patience, to enjoy success and, sometimes, to cope with not getting the result they wanted.
How can parents help their child?
Involve your child in the things that you want to do online. If your child sees you looking things up, buying things, getting in touch with people, using it for work or for leisure, it becomes something that they want to use, too. If you can involve them in this activity, so much the better.
Share in the things that your child wants to do online. This might be playing games on the CBeebies website but it might also include watching carefully selected funny videos on YouTube, looking though a digital photo album or making a Skype call to grandma.
Help to get them started so that they can play independently. Some children will want the reassurance of your hand over theirs on a mouse; others will want to do things for themselves. Most children will need you to introduce them to some of the basics – how to get the swiping motion needed on a tablet, or to scroll through content. But children usually pick up how to do these things fairly easily.
What would your top tips be for supporting your young child online?
- Sharing your experience: Choose things that you both like doing so you can enjoy sharing time at the computer when you can.
- Talk about what you're doing and why: Think aloud when you play. ‘Let’s click on this one because…’ or ‘We’ve got two choices here. Which one is best?’ Encourage your child to think about what will happen if they choose a particular action or element of the game.
- Involve other members of the family: Older brothers and sisters may love being the teacher and showing them what to do, or grandparents may enjoy the opportunity to share the experience and spend some time on a one-to-one activity.
- Aim for a mix of activities at and away from the computer: such as dressing up, singing songs or painting pictures relating to the game they’ve been playing.