3-7 year olds
Even if they are not actively seeking out new information, children this age are learning constantly from the things they see and hear online. Video content, apps and games can provide exciting opportunities for children to explore and learn, the search bar on any web browser can open up endless possibilities, and the excitement of asking a question aloud to a voice activated device (e.g. Alexa or Siri) show the many magical ways that technology can open young children’s eyes to the world around them. However, it is important they recognise that not everything they see and hear online is true and establishing basic critical thinking skills early on will help prepare them to navigate the online world as they grow.
What should critical thinking look like for children aged 3-7?
Children aged 3-7 will benefit most from being encouraged to be curious and to question the things they see and hear both online and offline.
Once they begin to recognise that they can learn new things using the internet, it’s important to establish that not everything they find will be true. It may be helpful to explain that all the things we see on the internet (including pictures, videos and information) were put there by people and that people sometimes get things wrong! Once they’ve accepted this idea, the next step is to begin trying to identify which things are true and can be trusted, and which are not. They don’t always have to be right – but make sure they have strategies to help if they’re unsure, like asking you or another adult for help.
Top Tips for supporting children aged 3-7
- Explore the internet together
Choose a topic your child is interested in and spend some time investigating it together online. Talk about the things you see and hear, asking questions like: “What do you think about this?” or “Does that sound right to you?”
- Establish good habits early on
Encourage helpful habits like checking more than one source. This can be done in a very simple way – “This website says this, shall we check another one and see what that says?” or “That video was really interesting, shall we look in the library for a book about the same subject?”
- Provide strategies for getting help
As they begin to use devices and the internet more independently, make sure your child knows they can come to you if they ever see something confusing or that they’re not sure about. You could also talk about who could help them at school or if they’re visiting a friend.
- Practise critical thinking skills offline too
Whilst critical thinking is a vital skill online, it is useful offline too. You can practise these skills really simply as you come across information on a day-to-day basis. For example if an advert claims something is ‘the best’, ask “Do you think it actually is the best?”
Conversation starter ideas
- What do you enjoy learning about online? How do you use the internet to learn?
- How do the things we see online get there?
- Is everything online true?
- How can we tell if something online is real or not?
- Who can help you if you see something online that you’re not sure about?
We have created a free ebook of 'Digiduck's Famous Friend', an online safety story about critical thinking and reliability online. Why not share the story with your child and start the conversation at home?