UOW launches children’s technology playspace, a “living laboratory” for digital play

UOW launches children’s technology playspace, a “living laboratory” for digital play

by Freya Lucas

March 17, 2022

Many families and educators have expressed concern about digital screen time, and its spike since the advent of COVID-19, unsure about how to manage the move to a world where work, school, play and entertainment were all facilitated through technology in a way which respected and supported the needs and rights of children.

 

In 2021, the Australian Centre for the Digital Child opened a node at the University of Wollongong (UOW) at a time when in-person relationships “had never been more precarious”. 

 

The pragmatic and research-based approach of the Australian Centre for the Digital Child, and its positioning at UOW, came as a welcome relief for many, as parents began to voice their concerns and tensions about digital screen time, often feeling guilty about their children’s use of technology, and that the messages about how to use digital technologies with children and available screen-time guidelines were often conflicting.

 

Building on the questions and support requirements identified through the past year, the Australian Centre for the Digital Child has opened a “living laboratory” of digital experiences available for children from birth to eight years of age next door to UOW’s much-loved Discovery Space

 

To be known as the UOW Children’s Technology Play Space, it is a place for educators and industry partners to come and work with the research team, offering an opportunity for interdisciplinary and intergenerational dialogue, and an inspiration to use technology in smart and innovative ways. 

 

“UOW research has been leading the way in our understanding of digital play, particularly digital imaginative play. When we think about our children’s relationship with technology, this kind of play is crucial for development as a way to explore, experiment and manipulate their understandings of the world,” said Professor Lisa Kervin, the Research Director at UOW’s Early Start and UOW’s Node Director for the Centre of Excellence. 

 

Within the walls of the UOW Children’s Technology Play Space, children and their families will be involved in cutting-edge research around how technologies can be safely used with young children. The space will host a number of research projects for the Centre, focusing on the educated child, the healthy child and the connected child. 

 

The space will be available to the public through regular digital playgroups (details to be announced) and during hands-on workshops, both parents and children will learn how to use technology smartly.

 

“Never before has technology been so important in families’ lives. Families are dealing with mixed messages about what is and isn’t appropriate for their children. The reality is though, digital technology is firmly part of the lives of many families, including young children,” Professor Kervin said.

 

Helping parents to be able to choose quality apps for their young children and learners and to facilitate the smart use of these apps at home will be a focus of those working within the space, supported by evidence showing that technology can be a wonderful addition to any child’s development, fostering literacy, creativity, self-regulation and growth. 

 

In addition to digital playgroups, the Children’s Technology Play Space plans to also open the space to educators and families at different times for a seminar program to investigate children’s digital experiences and share evidence-based examples.

 

The space will officially open this afternoon with a small group of children and their parents participating in two digital workshops from 4pm – 5:30pm in the Children’s Technology Play Space Room of the Early Start Building at UOW. 

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