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?
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.