By Jenny Laycock, Digital Delivery Manager at Family Fund

Our world is driven by technology; appointment booking, the weekly big shop, keeping on top of homework, gaming or speaking to our friends and family are all things that many people now do online. Lots of children use tablets in school and often know far more about technology than adults. So what happens if you don’t know how to use the technology? Do you miss out? Are you left behind by your children? Are you excluded?

Digital technology isn’t just about using the latest gadgets to save time and money. It’s about connecting with people, benefiting from online discounts, finding information, and being included. It provides access to a whole new world for many people, and can support innovative ways of learning and communication for disabled children and young people.

In late 2015, knowing how important digital devices were to families, Family Fund set up a Digital Skills Programme to help parents and carers get the most out of these devices and support their children. To date, over 600 parents/carers have received face-to-face training through the programme.

We use the tablet for communication, for YouTube and for information. Since the training, we are trying to use the iPad to further my autistic son's communication. I feel more confident - I learned a couple of new features which are useful to use and learned about apps which might help us.

The programme gives training that responds to the needs, skill level and the device that the parent or carer has, and even takes place in their preferred environment. Training sessions take place on a one-to-one basis in people’s homes, or in small group training sessions, all delivered by qualified and experienced trainers.

[The trainer] trained us on exactly what we needed to know at a pace that I was able to understand and was patient and very knowledgeable. I felt I have gained more confidence and understanding of how well I can use the iPad to help with my child's needs.

Training covers topics such as adapting accessibility settings to meet the individual needs of the child, setting up parental controls, synchronising multiple devices to share apps, calendars, and photo libraries; sourcing useful apps for children with additional needs, and using the tablet to produce picture books and videos. This can be particularly useful for non-verbal children and for supporting transition in children who find change stressful. No prior experience is necessary as the trainer goes at the right pace for the individual.

I didn't realise how much could be done on the iPad and how it could be restricted for children. I would say [the best thing about the training was] the trainer as he was brilliant and really made me feel more confident with using it and not stupid with the questions and lack of knowledge that I had before starting. I am so pleased that this type of training is offered as without it I would have been really struggling.

From those who completed a survey about their experiences, the rates of people feeling very confident around using accessibility features and setting parental controls soared from 16% before training to 90% after training.

Learning new things and increasing my skills made me feel more empowered. I’m glad I went.

Similarly, 70% of respondents felt confident about being safe online after they received training, compared to just 28% before training.

I have discovered how to navigate through 'settings' more confidently and now realise that there are many restrictions and settings I can adjust to suit my son's needs. For me, it has given me confidence that I know his tablet is a safer device with regards to content and security.

Find out more about the outcomes from our Digital Skills Programme by reading the summary report.

Are you a parent or carer of a disabled or seriously ill child or young person?  Interested in our free digital skills training? Register your interest now.

Would your parent/carer group be interested in hosting a digital skills session?  Get in touch.