At home, the same learning potential exists. But many parents feel unsure about how to navigate this brave new world and help their kids get the best from their tech.
The good news, according to cyber safety expert Nicolle Embra, is that safe and rewarding digital learning at home is probably simpler than you think.
“There’s no doubt that technology is an excellent learning tool for young people,” she says.
“And while the digital world might seem foreign, the tools we already use in everyday parenting apply just as well to digital parenting.”
“The very first tool parents should start with is their own supervision,” Says Embra, who founded thetechmum.com to help families use technology safely.
She recommends plenty of discussion about technology, and – especially with younger kids – watching and playing apps and games together.
She also advises setting rules around technology, just as you would with other behaviours.
“We all give our kids clear boundaries every day: don’t jump on the furniture or run around the pool. Technology is no different.”
For younger children, parents can set the rules, while teens can participate in creating a digital family plan, says Embra. She suggests that all family members sign the digital rules and place them somewhere visible, so everyone remembers to stick to what’s been agreed.
Rules should place limits on where devices can be used, when they can be used, and – most crucially –what they can be used for.
“If your child is reading a novel on their device or creating digital art for an hour, that’s very different to them passively watching non-stop YouTube for an hour,” she says.
Your digital safety toolkit
The latest devices now come with increasingly sophisticated built-in safety features. One of the latest is Kids Home, a safe mode tailored for use by children for Samsung devices including the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7.
Kids Home sets up a separate child-friendly home screen protected by a PIN, and allows parents to monitor screen time, set playtime limits, control permissions and include safe browsing of your approved websites. You can also enable calls to approved contacts.
As well as parental controls, Nicolle Embra recommends empowering yourself with some trustworthy resources.
“The Office of the eSafety Commissioner, at esafety.gov.au , is a fantastic resource. And so is the Beacon app by the Telethon Kids Institute. They put the latest information at your fingertips.”
Choosing reputable educational apps by well-known organisations is also a smart move, she says.
“The ABC’s Reading Eggs app is highly rated, and educational websites like ABC Kids, ABC Education, PBS Kids, National Geographic Kids. They’re all great learning tools that you can sit down with your child to watch.”
And there are safe ways for kids to enjoy the impressive video experience on a cutting edge device like the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7, with its stunning screen and rich audio.
Says Embra: “YouTube kids is designed for children up to and including 13. It’s great for bringing to life with video the topics your child is interested in – learning to draw, for example.”
When it comes to screen time guidelines, there’s no one size fits all, says Embra. “Families have different value beliefs and parenting styles, but I think it’s important for parents to be aware of the Australian guidelines for screen time for various ages, because they’re based on solid research.”
The best tool of all though, she says, is great communication.
“Talk to your kids about all things digital and talk to them often. Use whatever you can as teachable moments and conversation starters, such as news stories and events in their favourite TV shows that highlight issues around safe technology.”