Helping Parents Support Their Preschool Children’s Learning and Development Through SMS Messages: An Australian Pilot Study

Kym Simoncini, Jacqueline McKechnie, Catherine Hilly, Bernadette Matthews

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Abstract

Families are children’s first and most important teachers. However, their ability to support children’s learning and development at home varies due to knowledge, skills, and confidence. Family interventions aimed at increasing parents’ skills are labour-intensive and expensive. In contrast, text messages are low-cost and scalable. Text messages can provide bite-sized bits of information that remind parents of activities they can do in their everyday lives to support learning. Our pilot study replicated two studies from the United States of America (USA) using text messages to increase children’s language and literacy development. A mixed methods approach comprising a pre- to post-design and survey was used. Approximately 70 families with preschool children in the Australian Capital Territory received three text messages weekly for 18 weeks. Families were randomly assigned to either the language and literacy group or the control group that received general child development messages. Measurement of the impact of text messages on children’s language and literacy skills was not feasible due to COVID-19 constraints. We were able to measure parent knowledge and perceptions of the pilot project pre- and post-text messages. Parent knowledge in both groups moved in the right direction, and approximately 90% of parents reported that the text messages were useful and would recommend the program to other parents. Parents found both sets of texts equally valuable. Our study included highly educated and high-income families, while previous research in the USA were comprised of disadvantaged families. Our findings suggest that text messages about early language and literacy, and general child development are useful to all families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalEarly Childhood Education Journal
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2023

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