Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, announced on 20th February that he believes parents should use screen time for their children wisely, and use it to help children improve their literacy and language skills.
Families from poorer backgrounds will have access to the best children’s educational apps for smartphones and tablets.
The proposal comes after Mr Hinds said last year that it was a ‘scandal’ that children are arriving at school not able to speak or read properly.
The secretary also said he understands that there are a lot of apps which could be distracting for children and this is why it’s important to identify the right ones to use.
Reports from The Department for Education show that more than 25% of four- and five-year-olds are around 4 months behind in their communication skills. This figure goes up to 19 months by the time children reach GCSE level.
Mr Hinds wants to halve the learning gap by 2028. He also said that children can learn from apps and screen time, giving an example of the “Sesame Street effect” where children learnt while they watched the TV programme.
Families will gain access to the best learning apps in up to 12 pilot areas. They will also receive text messages with tips, educational toys and books, to help tackle the issue.
Mr Hinds said that the gap is a huge issue and it needs to be addressed:
“No parent has all of the answers. Being a parent is like learning to drive: wonderful, full of new discovery, but at times, challenging, with plenty of obstacles to swerve. 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: 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 – but on the other, the power of technology and the internet can open up a whole new world when embraced properly.
“But it’s also 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 that helps improve children’s early development at home.
“Screens can be an easy distraction for children, but harnessing the power of technology to support early communication and development means that we have another tool in our arsenal to help young kids develop those skills.”
Early years experts and authors like Phillip Pullman have previously said that parents need to spend less time on their mobile phones and speak to their children more to improve their language skills.