How parents can support their child’s learning in a digital world

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Recent research by Ofcom shows that 71% of 3 and 4-year-old children have access to tablets at home. However, a number of myths have emerged about children’s use of digital media and some parents have become concerned about screen time, despite research showing that technology can aid learning and creativity, particularly when parents are actively involved in their children’s play.

In 2014 the BBC asked Professor Lydia Plowman FAcSS and Juliet Hancock of the University of Edinburgh to consider how CBeebies games on the website and apps could become springboards to further learning.

The researchers reviewed over 80 CBeebies games to assess their educational value, areas of learning and development, and overall enjoyment.

They then devised guidance for parents so that they could engage with their children in shared activities both digitally and around the home.

For each CBeebies game, these guided interaction points identified areas of learning and development, such as numbers or the ability to concentrate, along with
a complementary activity and a simple description of how learning could be extended. For example, if the digital game featured matching and sorting, the related parent and child activity might involve matching socks while sorting the laundry.

This gave CBeebies games an enhanced focus on children’s learning and development, and helped parents share young children’s screen time and participate in their digital games. As many children were likely to receive handheld devices for Christmas 2014, the researchers were featured on BBC iWonder, its digital encyclopaedia. This provides thought-provoking answers to everyday questions, such as ‘Are tablets good for children?’

As a result of this work, the BBC also included guided interaction points on their Storytime app and in 2016, commissioned suggestions for a further 16 games on the CBeebies site. One parent said,
“It’s important to play along with your child as they get more out of it.You can explain things to them if necessary. Otherwise they can concentrate too much on the process of playing the game rather than what they’re learning. Or your child can miss things… but as a parent you can pause and point things out.” Parent of Sam aged 4

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