Delegates at a cyber-safety conference in Wellington this week have heard calls for more guidelines on how to use technology and the internet safely in early childhood education services.
Core Education consultant Tara Fagan told the conference organised by Netsafe that most kindergartens around the country now either had or were introducing iPads into their centres. However, there is no formal nationwide policy on how and when early childhood education services should use ICT; instead, individual services draft their own policies and guidelines.
Her colleague Sharon Carlson said devices such as iPads had great capacity to enhance learning but needed to be used safely. Early childhood education staff should be aware of things such as being able to set iPads so that children could not download apps or have full internet access.
Ms Carlson services needed to check everything they showed children and linked to on the internet. She used an example from one service which had posted a link to a video on You Tube which was later found to link to another video with violent content. While the original video was suitable for children’s viewing Ms Carlson said services needed to be careful about what children might accidentally be exposed to. If this sort of situation happened, the best course of action was to discuss it openly with parents, before the child said anything.
Safety and guidelines around using technology and the internet should be a priority for early childhood services before they started using the technology with children, Ms Carlson said. Sending staff on a specialised cyber-safety professional development course was ideal however, she acknowledged the cost of things was off-putting and noted government funding in this area had been cut.