New research shows many parents believe smartphone use supports children’s development

Almost two-thirds of parents and carers of 3 to 5 year olds (61%) believe the use of smartphones supports the education and development of pre-schoolers, according to new research.

Findings by education publisher Oxford University Press (OUP) found that while four in five parents reported concerns around online safety, the majority of parents surveyed still believed that smartphone and tablet exposure is a vital component of a child’s early education in today’s increasingly digital world.

 The findings are announced today as OUP launches Little Oxford, a new augmented reality app for 3 to 5 year olds. The app has been created by educational experts, built on decades of knowledge of how children learn, that helps parents and carers support their children with early years education at home.

The OUP study surveyed 2,000 parents and carers of 3 to 5 year olds across the UK in partnership with strategic insight agency, Opinium.

While parents value educational apps, with nearly nine in ten (88%) agreeing that these apps support their child’s learning of the national curriculum, one in three parents still downplay to each other how much time their children spend on smartphones and tablets, and a quarter of parents (28%) wished their child spent less time on the devices.

The majority of parents (82%) have some concerns around safety when it comes to their children using smartphones and tablets, yet two-thirds believe that children whose parents spend time using apps with them know how to keep themselves safer online later on in life.

The report’s other key findings are:

·        Nearly 9 in 10 parents believe educational apps can benefit learning (89%), digital skills (89%) and numeracy skills (88%)

·        66% of respondents believe that children whose parents spend time using apps with them know how to keep themselves safer online later on in life.

Helen Freeman, director of early childhood & home education at Oxford University Press, said: “Digital literacy has become a vital part of classroom education in the UK, and it is clear from this report that parents of pre-schoolers are highly aware of the many benefits of digital tools for young children, with 67% reporting that the use of smartphones and tablets can enable children to learn new things as a complement to the use of printed books and offline educational resources.

“However, we know how many parents still feel uneasy about the amount of screen use and, understandably, have concerns around safety.

“Having access to safe and informative screentime is vital, which is why we are delighted to launch our Little Oxford app. Little Oxford is created by our educational experts, built on our decades of knowledge of how children learn, bringing together the best of our educational expertise combined with the latest AR technology.

“The in-app activities are also linked to our free parent platform Oxford Owl, which has lots of offline resources available for parents and children to enjoy together, ensuring parents can vary their child’s screen use as they feel fit. We believe Little Oxford will give parents the confidence to support screen-based learning at home, in a safe, fun and collaborative way.”

Sue Cowley, early years specialist who worked on Little Oxford, said: “Little Oxford offers a fun way to get your little learners interacting with stories and starting to build their literacy and numeracy skills.

“The Little Oxford app gives you a great way to get your little one learning through fun, play based activities. Perfect to help them get ready to start school.”

The Little Oxford app, created in collaboration with EdTech developer, Inception XR, uses augmented and virtual reality technology to create a fun and engaging, collaborative learning experience for young learners and their parents or carers.

 It was designed to align with the UK and international curricula and guides children through the seven key areas of early years education: communication and language; literacy; mathematics; physical development; personal, social and emotional development; understanding the world; and expressive arts and design.

With activities that enable children to learn through play, Little Oxford supports 3 to 5 year olds in becoming confident learners, while developing their digital literacy, an increasingly important skill for children, in a safe and educational virtual environment.

The app offers parents and carers the opportunity to explore further activities on Oxford’s free parent platform, Oxford Owl. There, parents can download a variety of craft and activity sheets which can be enjoyed together with their children off-line.

Available on all major app stores, including the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, a limited version of the Little Oxford app is free to download and trial, with the full app available with a subscription of £15 for three months or £30 for the year. There are no in-app purchase options, ensuring parents can be reassured that young children can enjoy the app safely.

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