Playing IT Safe: online safety for young children

1 May, 2020

A new early learning initiative to teach young children about cyber safety and digital technology use has launched, as part of a joint program developed by the Australian Federal Police, eSafety Commissioner, Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

The Playing IT Safe website contains a variety of comprehensive resources for early childhood education teachers and assistants to use when teaching pre-school aged children about online safety.

The variety of play-based games, activities and lessons have been designed to engage with children in a fun, interactive and age-appropriate way to help them understand technology and develop the foundation for good online safety skills.

IEUA-QNT Senior Industrial Officer John Spriggs said our union commends the initiative, which is a vital resource given the increasingly digital landscape children are growing up in.

“Playing IT Safe has excellent tools for early childhood education teachers and assistants to use,” John said.

“It is important to expose children to some technology, so they develop digital literacy skills, but to also balance that with online and cyber safety considerations.

“Playing IT Safe actively engages with young children and teaches them about these topics, rather than just having a conversation.

“The play-based activities can be adapted and scaffolded to suit the different learning needs of young children so they can have a safe, enjoyable time online,” John said.

Keeping it age-appropriate

Activities available through Playing IT Safe revolve around topics like how to deal with pop-up content, taking photos, getting consent for taking photos and understanding image manipulation.

In addition, other activities teach children about concepts including passwords, GPS, Wi-Fi, the internet and who to contact for help if they get into negative situations both online and offline.

IEUA-QNT member Bridget Kings, who is the Director at Vera Lacaze Memorial Kindergarten in Toowoomba, has been an early childhood education teacher for 39 years and says she and her colleagues have seen enormous change in children’s lives with regards to technology use.

“As technology is all around us in the world, we want children to value its use within the proper contexts and develop understanding that as with everything in life, there is a need for balance,” Bridget said.

“Children learn from the world around them and from observing our own experiences, so very young children quickly learn how to utilise and access content on devices by swiping across screens.

“Although it can be a powerful tool for education, technology and the internet cannot meet the human needs to adequately develop and stimulate children’s brain development and understandings of language like human interactions can,” she said.

Content is categorised into age-appropriate activities which outline all relevant information like clear learning objectives, instructions, required resources and prompts.

Bridget says she and her colleagues were impressed by the Playing IT Safe website, which contains lots of informative content and professional development for early childhood education teachers and assistants.

“Playing IT Safe also has learning experiences which can link into the conversations and discussions that we have every day with children at the kindergarten as we take photos of their artwork, their creations and of each other as they play and learn together,” Bridget said.

“We can also share the resources that support our families as they engage in conversations about screen time and appropriateness of content with their children at home,” she said.

Start safety early

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said it is never too early to start talking with children about online safety, as research shows 81 per cent of parents with pre-schoolers said their children were already using the internet.

“Early engagement is critical to laying the fundamental building blocks for safer online practices throughout a child’s online journey- instead of just “talking to them”- really this is about engaging with young children and guiding them now, and for the future,” Ms Inman Gran said.

Members can access the Playing IT Safe website and resources here.

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