This four-week course from the OU draws upon the expertise of a developmental psychologist, and a researcher in early literacy – both different aspects from mine, which comes from that of a social media/communications specialist looking at what children/those shaping their environment need to understand in order to ‘enjoy the best and avoid the worst’ online.
How is digital technology changing childhood – and how can adults keep up?
- Touch-screen = accessible, but do children find them exciting beyond entertainment?
- Different from our own experiences, so is it good, or bad, for child development?
Article: A Family Discussion
Are your experiences of childhood fundamentally or superficially different?
- [Fascinating that it’s the kids that are seen as ‘problematic’ asking for wi-fi codes, etc. I’m considerably older than a child, but I’d probably ask that too, although as I’m older, I might have more etiquette, but I think my fundamental desire for connectivity is the same.]
- Parents want definition over terms – childhood defined as 3-14 year olds; the course uses 2 x definitions of digital/technology – the hardware devices/outputs, but also the functionality.
The question asks ‘are we raising a new generation of children for whom technology is as natural as breathing?’. [Is this a culturally specific question? And what about the difference between a 3 year old, 5 year old, 12 year old? Is it more like comparing to learning to ski from a young age = less fears, and more creative about using it, before the rules of life have come in, rather than the tech itself?]
Article: From Zero to Eight
Increasing ownership of tablets (1/3 children) and use of smartphones. The EU Kids Online Project identified that there’s an increasing number of younger children using mobile, internet-connected devices, including 30% of 7-11 year olds reporting having their own Facebook account (‘legal’ age is 13), and that the stats are not uniform across countries.
Article/Video: A Moral Panic
Mariella Frostrup with Tanya Byron, Lydia Plowman, Julie Johnson and Helen King – notions of moral panics – is a particular issue seen as a threat to conventional social norms?
- Should children under age of 2 use tech
- Should pre-school-age children engage with age-appropriate social networks as ‘training’
- What benefits (less often focused upon) associated with early exposure to technology?
- Democratisation of information – easier to access globally scattered information.
- Typically focuses on 8+, but what about those younger, esp re tablets, etc.
- Marketing for pre-8 age-group is aimed at parents/grandparents, typically for ‘learning benefits’, children typically not asking for selves, and often actually based upon old styles of learning
- We have a digital economy, in which people need to engage.
- Byron – neuroscience – children struggle to distinguish between fact/fiction – therefore need supervision & management online as you would offline (walled gardens). “Stop panicking and broaden our thinking about it”.
- Working in child exploitation, see the worst of the internet, and therefore colours thinking about it.
- Julie – should only use technology with their parents (based on anecdotal experience)
- Lydia – no evidence that early use does harm, but jury is out.
- Byron – early stages of development = neurones are connecting, so need to be clear on how much technology is used, and is clear it’s not the most useful tool for developing brains.
Article: Why is technology so appealing?
- Fun, captivating and entertaining
- Intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) motivation – activity for own sake because enjoyable, leads to persistence, performance, satisfaction.
- 3 basic psychological needs:
- Competence – mastering a challenge effectively
- Relatedness – connecting with others using social networking
- Autonomy – control of own lives, rational choices in using tech/for what
Article/Video: Are children and adults today really so different?
- Check out ‘digital devices and children‘ (Jim Steyer: digital natives); spend more time with their devices than they do with parents/at school; streaming video = convenience; huge amounts of guilt re allowing children to have devices at table, etc.; expectation is can take device everywhere/zones out; need for parents to model behaviour (parenting/how we learn hasn’t really changed, devices have changed); truly engage with what is being sent in/out from child’s account; reference to ‘impersonal way that we communicate’
- Do we need new rules? New parenting classes?
Article: Introducing Digital Natives
Range of terms tied to the importance that technology plays in defining the lives of young people.
- Prensky’s theory of ‘digital natives‘ [which I believe he has since drawn back from in some respects]
- Neuroplasticity – new neural connections responsive to environments
- Does this, therefore, mean that we need to change the types of education to meet children’s expectations?
- [5 years ago I have a talk on 21st Century Students, which has had nearly 4,000 views – essentially, we are still dealing with humans, but there are things to be aware of]
Article: Digital Natives, Fact or Fiction
[This is one my favourite videos on this topic:
Sue Bennett (2008) indicates that Prensky’s research is not empirically/theoretically informed, and therefore has become an academic form of ‘moral panic’.
- The term has stuck til 2015, and still informs discussions about education – dangerous to change large systems on such limited research
Question: Is there really a generational divide?
Specific types of tech used by kids more than others, what is difference to their offline activities? What about digital natives/immigrants?
[I would buy in more to Dave White’s theory of visitors & residents]
Article: Digital Pessimists
“We live in a risk-averse society and this is certainly true with regard to children.”
- Most concerns are related to moral or social anxieties – re children’s cognitive, emotional or social development
- Pessimism directed at screen-based media, as assumes = social isolation, lack of social skills, obesity [other research has illustrated the opposite]
- Aggression tied to video games? Attention deficit and disrupted sleep.
- Searches = internet ‘addiction’, aggressive game playing & bullying – the digital is often blamed for this.
Poll: Are you a digital optimist or pessimist?
5 simple questions (I am clearly an optimist), but interestingly, the majority of those undertaking this survey (over 1000 people) are leaning towards more pessimistic views!
Article/Video: Back to the Experts
Sonia Livingstone asks if prevention is really the best cure:
- What the real risks, the stats? Many childhood ‘issues’ haven’t changed over-time, but the visibility has changed? Media representations too! How do we respond?
- The internet is always changing, and change makes us anxious – we have worried about every technological revolution
- “The internet is not the cause of human misery, people are.”
- Always in, always on, choices about communication – e.g. anonymity/identification, the speed/long-term nature of (negative) content.
- Constant re-design of the internet. “Has not arrived from Mars” – it’s been made by us, shaped by commerce, government, work, people, etc.
- What content are they engaging with, and who is providing that?
- Ofcom figures from 2013 indicate that few are really partaking in participatory activities (uploading a photo = the most)
- Where are our ‘spaces’, we have become so risk-averse, we don’t allow children outside, nor do we allow them alone online? How can we encourage better use of creative spaces.
Article: Digital Parenting
- We need to give children more autonomy and choice, rather than shutting them down, trust the maturity and judgement of children.
- Many psychologists avoid the term ‘risk’ and use ‘problematic situations’, recognising that children have different perceptions of what is problematic.
- Awareness of risks means that children concentrate on avoiding problematic situations online, or from re-occuring.
- Give children
- Problem-solving strategies – actions/strategies
- Plan/reflect – using hypothetical situations
- Information seeking – about online environment
- Support seeking – who to talk to if run into problems
- Fatalistic – accept risks out there without trivialising/generalising.
- See Digital Parenting magazine from Vodafone
Article: Creating responsible digital kids
- Too much fear. Digital divide seen as between children/adults, who feel ill-equipped to protect their children.
- Risk-avoidance is not the strategy, but equipping children with skills/knowledge to avoid known risks, and become responsible digital children.
- How are social media/online interactions changing because of children’s engagement?
- Sign up to OU modules…
- Pre-course material – are video games damaging for children?