Should children use tablet computers in school?

Being able to use a tablet computer is more important than having good handwriting, according to one in four Australian adults.

Tablets in school 1And almost half of those surveyed by Canstar Blue believe that all children should be taught with the aid of tablets in school.

Dr Kristy Goodwin, children’s technology and brain researcher, and director of Every Chance to Learn, says that when used appropriately, tablets can support and even enhance a child’s learning – from the age of two. But they should not be used as a “digital babysitter”.

She said: “It’s critical that they’re used in intentional and developmentally-appropriate ways. If used effectively, they allow children to learn in new and more engaging ways. They shouldn’t be the ‘digital worksheet’ as there’s no value-add in this context. Tablets have to enable students to learn in better or new ways, or they shouldn’t be used.

“Teachers need to be well-versed on the best pedagogical practices that should accompany tablet use in the classroom. Tablets can be amplifiers of a teacher’s practice. If they have really good pedagogical approaches, closely aligned to how students learn in the 21st century, then they can be a great tool. But if a teacher doesn’t use tablets with the best pedagogical practices to support their use, they can hamper student learning.

“There’s no denying that tablet devices have been rapidly adopted in schools, and in an increasing numbers of preschools and long daycare centres. I think we’ll continue to see a growing number of tablets and touch-screen technologies in classrooms.”

How long should children use a tablet for?

tablets in school 2Three-quarters of the 1,200 respondents to the Canstar Blue survey said they believe tablet computers are a good educational tool. But when asked how much time children should spend using one, the average was just two hours per day.

“It’s critical that teachers – and parents – help today’s children form healthy media habits,” added Dr Goodwin. “This means that children need to learn to manage how much time they spend with digital devices. We need to teach children how to manage media, not let media manage them – as lots of adults are now experiencing first-hand.”

Almost one-in-three of the parents surveyed said they allow their child to use a tablet with unrestricted access, while 20% have handed over their password to buy apps. And 41% admitted they allow their child to use a tablet right before going to bed.

“We should focus on more than just quantifying ‘how much’ screen time children have with devices,” added Dr Goodwin. “We also need to focus on what children are doing with tablets, where children are using the devices, with whom children are using devices, and when children are using devices – rapid-fire, fast-paced screens can adversely impact children’s sleep time and capacity of focus if not used at the right time.”

Our findings recently featured in a special Channel 7 report, which you can watch below.

Share this article