Young children and the Web: Technology in early childhood environments and everyday practices


Purpose: While early childhood policy and associations acknowledge the importance of young children's exposure to Web searching, there is little known about what young children actually do on the internet as they engage in Web searching. This study aims to shed light on the extent of web-based activities in early childhood centres in Queensland and also on the everyday practices which young children engage in as they use digital technologies.

Method: A large-scale survey of 131 early childhood teachers in childcare centres across Queensland, Australia was undertaken. The survey focussed on classroom computer availability and usage, classroom experience and educators' beliefs relating to technology and children. Based on data gathered from the survey, nine early childhood classrooms were selected and, using video-recorders and time-log records, data was gathered focussing on young children's interactions with technology in the classroom. Two children from each class were invited to participate in a home study. The home study also involved time-log records and video-recorded episodes of the child's interactions when using technology. 

Results: The survey highlighted the extent to which classrooms and teachers have computer access, how teachers view learning through technology and their online technological experiences and engagement. Preliminary findings from the classroom and home data collection provide glimpses into the practices in which children engage as they use the Internet.

Conclusion: The growth of the Web is one of the most significant social and economic trends of the 21st century. Evidence shows that children as young as three years conduct Web searching. This study contributes important knowledge to this under researched area, providing empirical evidence about technology in early childhood environments and also how young children are using the Internet in their everyday lives.