A new national study has been launched to provide key insights into the big picture on how digital technologies are changing early childhood.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child is seeking thousands of Australian families to take part in the world-first longitudinal study of young children’s engagement with digital technologies, from six months of age.
The Australian Children of the Digital Age (ACODA) study will investigate children’s digital engagement in a four-year study involving more than 3,000 Australian families.
Professor Susan Danby, from the QUT School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, and Digital Child Director said that digital technologies were changing childhood as we know it with implications for young children’s health, education, wellbeing, and social connections.
“Digital technologies are used with, and accessed by, even our very youngest children and this usage is rapidly increasing,” Professor Danby said.
“The big question facing parents and carers is: What does the central presence of digital technologies mean for your children?”
Professor Daniel Johnson, from the QUT School of Computer Science, said that currently, relatively little was known about how young children used digital technologies with several urgent research gaps in this area.
“Children are living in progressively digital worlds where the boundary between virtual and real life is increasingly blurred,” Professor Johnson said.
“Our study will provide actionable insights by identifying the ways in which technology is benefiting families but also highlighting the concerns that they have,” Professor Johnson said.
Digital technology offers a myriad of opportunities for learning and play, but also significant risks for young children. By gathering data from 3000 Australian families, ACODA will identify ‘hot spots’ for detailed investigation.
Professor Grace Sarra, from the QUT School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, said that in Australia many children across different communities in Australia did not have access to digital technologies with access and usage differing in relation to socio-economic status, gender, social, cultural, language and age characteristics of individuals and communities.
“Children experiencing digital exclusion miss out on access to knowledge and important social connections,“ Professor Sarra said.
“By collecting population-level data, ACODA will inform evidence-based advice for policy makers on how and where access should be improved.”
Curtin University’s Dr Juliana Zabatiero said that there was a lack of clarity about the place of digital technologies in supporting young children as they learn and grow.
“Parents, carers, and professionals caring for young children are reporting increased concerns over how best to support children using digital technology,” Dr Zabatiero said.
“ACODA will empower children and their families by providing important insight into the way technology use relates with different aspects of a child’s life.
“These findings will help us identify not just those at risk of poor outcomes, but also determine ways to reduce potential negative impacts of technology use.”
This article originally appeared as a media release from the Queensland University of Technology.