Parents should use iPads and smartphones to educate their children rather than simply letting them play games, the Education Secretary has said.
Damian Hinds called on families to use technology more ‘positively’ amid fears children are spending too much time glued to their screens.
Experts have previously warned that some parents are using tablet devices as an easy way to keep children quiet – with little knowledge of what they are actually looking at.
Meanwhile, children are turning up to school unable to speak properly or understand basic commands because of lack of practice at home.
Damian Hinds called on families to use technology more ‘positively’ amid fears children are spending too much time glued to their screens
Mr Hinds says parents should instead harness the available technology to help their children improve literacy skills.
He has now commissioned a panel of experts to compile a list of apps that promote child development, especially among under-fives.
It will be the first Government-approved list of education apps, and 20,000 disadvantaged families will get free access to them as part of a pilot project.
Mr Hinds said yesterday: ‘No parent has all of the answers. Our children are growing up in a constantly-changing world and it is hard to keep up.
‘And when it comes to children and technology – that’s where a manual can be helpful. Not all screen-time is created equal.
Child coders … aged 2.0
Today, they’re glued to their tablets – tomorrow they’ll be programming them.
Children as young as two are being given lessons in computer coding to prepare them for the country’s increasingly digital future.
An online marketplace is offering private tutors from £35 an hour to teach pre-schoolers using toys, games and problem-solving puzzles.
Bark.com said it had seen a 30 per cent rise in requests for computer science tutors after reports that a predicted shortage in digital skills could cost the economy more than £140billion over the next decade.
Kai Feller, of Bark.com, said: ‘It’s only in recent years that the extent of the UK’s digital skills shortage has come to light, and more needs to be done to rectify this problem.’
‘On one side there are the pressures that come with social media and the time spent looking at a screen, which is a key worry for parents.
On the other, the power of technology and the internet can open up a whole new world when embraced properly.
‘But it’s difficult to navigate, and often expensive, so I want to support parents of all backgrounds to feel able to embrace its benefits and use it in a measured, sensible way.’
The apps, aimed at children aged up to four, will be chosen from those already on the market, and families will be able to buy them in the normal way.
The Government will also purchase mass subscriptions to be distributed among disadvantaged families in 12 pilot areas for free.
An expert panel, chaired by Professor Jackie Marsh of the University of Sheffield, will use their intimate knowledge of child development to compile the list.
Mr Hinds said there are ‘masses’ of digital games aimed at children which are ‘designed not to be educational’ and ‘might be diverting’.
He added: ‘Some [apps] are really good, and lots are not. And it’s really difficult as a parent to know which is which. There is such a thing as good screen-time. There is good educational content to be had.’
Experts have previously warned that some parents are using tablet devices as an easy way to keep children quiet – with little knowledge of what they are actually looking at. Stock image
Mr Hinds hopes offering the apps to disadvantaged families will help reduce the literacy gap between rich and poor.
On average, disadvantaged children aged five are already four months behind in overall development.
Research has shown this can be reversed if parents help children learn speaking and listening skills at home before they start school.
Mr Hinds will also launch several other pilots in disadvantaged areas – including offering professional advice to families through regular ‘tips by text message’.
The apps, aimed at children aged up to four, will be chosen from those already on the market, and families will be able to buy them in the normal way. Stock image