I was invited to join the Think Tank meeting of the DigiLitEY project in London at the end of March 2017 as an expert. This research project is focused on technology use by children under 8 years of age. The London event mostly focused on the working group that focuses on parents and home. While we were presented interesting research evidence mostly gathered through literature review, a discussion has also been started on how it would be possible to engage as many parents in the discourse as possible.
The current research has covered the areas of the digital divide, the impact of socio-economic status, gender, nationality, language, physical ability and other factors on technology use, the assessment methodology used and the need for training professionals, especially teachers for the digital era. It has been and ongoing literature review on 0-8-year-olds’ digital literacy at home and in informal, non-formal settings. The findings are from three fields: parental mediation, media engagement and learning practices at home, and home-school/institution interaction in supporting media engagement and digital literacy of children and also of parents.
In the field of parental mediation one of the most important and very positive findings is that for parents turning (to) digital is positive, but challenging at the same time. However, it is unfortunately easier to see risks than benefits, especially as a result of mass media’s focus. Parental mediation can take many forms, eg. co-use, technical restriction, guidance. Parental mediation activities depend on many factors according to research evidence available, some of the factors being the number of digital devices at home, the child’s age, the parents’ age, gender, socio-economic status and the parents’ digital literacy level.
In the field of media engagement and learning practices the first and not surprising evidence is that children in today’s European reality live in a media-rich environment. While media engagement is not a dominant part of everyday lives of 0-8-year-olds, even the smallest children show a high level of ownership and agency – a fact that might be surprising for some, but should be reassuring for all parents. Decisions are made with not only parental, but also with peer mediation. One very important finding that we must highlight to all parents is that in most cases children mirror the habits, behaviour, style of parents, so when trying to impose media restrictions on children showing them a near-addiction is counterproductive to say the least.
When it comes to home-school relationship I was far from surprised to hear that professional educators are not aware of children’s home digital practices. It is also not surprising to hear that research shows there is limited school work related to digital literacy. Even in this research, having limited and special focus, it is clear that parents strongly demand more collaborative schools, this collaboration meaning not only exchange of information, but sharing and implementing each other’s good practices.
Other working groups of the project focus on the role of museums, libraries, early childhood practitioners, reading and writing on the screen with special focus on ebooks, the link between online and offline practices, and methodology and ethics of related research. The last item is especially important since it means to do research in the home and diving into family practices, dealing with young children whose informed consent is difficult to obtain.
Some interesting resources have been shared that are worth looking at by parents’ associations and individual parents alike.
The project website can be found here: http://digilitey.eu/
The London School of Economics fosters a blog on parenting for a digital future, building bridges between research and parenting support, thus not targeting parents directly. The topics covered are often broader since most research shows parental anxieties are often linked to broader ones on how to guide your children. They follow the basic principle that there is no one right way, and they also look for knowledge on special situation parents, eg. with special-education-need children, special life-style parents. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/parenting4digitalfuture/
The digital parenting magazine published by Vodaphone Uk was also presented. The issues are freely downloadable from the ParentZone website here: http://parentzone.org.uk/