World first study into children and digital technology
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child seeking input for world-first study

ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child seeking input for world-first study

by Freya Lucas

October 25, 2023

Digital technologies are changing childhood as it has previously been experienced, and along with this comes implications for young children’s health, education, wellbeing, and social connections.


To learn more about these impacts 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.


“Digital technologies are used with, and accessed by, even our very youngest children and this usage is rapidly increasing,” said Digital Child Director Professor Susan Danby.


“The big question facing parents and carers is: what does the central presence of digital technologies mean for your children?”


Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are ideally positioned to share this opportunity with families, and to promote participation in the study, which will investigate children’s digital engagement via the four-year Australian Children of the Digital Age (ACODA) study involving more than 3000 Australian families.


Currently, relatively little is known about how young children use digital technologies with several urgent research gaps in this area, Professor Daniel Johnson added. 


“Children are living in progressively digital worlds where the boundary between virtual and real life is increasingly blurred,” he 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.” 


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.


Dr Juliana Zabatiero hopes the study will provide 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.”


The findings will not only help the Centre to identify those at risk of poor outcomes, but also determine ways to reduce potential negative impacts of technology use.


Other key issues addressed by ACODA include equity, access, and the digital divide. The study aims to identify potential problems and inequities related to children’s use of digital technology.


Professor Grace Sarra explained that in Australia many children across different communities do 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.”


ACODA will run for at least four years. In the first year, families with children aged between six months and five years of age are invited to participate. 


For more information or to register to participate, please see here.

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