Parenting for a digital future: Beyond “screen time” rules
Professor Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics and Political Science
In this talk, Sonia, building on three years of research with parents, children and educators, explores the lives of families who are variously enjoying the pleasures or wrestling with the challenges of digital media. The presentation will focus on texts – and contested discourses – regarding parenting, education and regulation of young children’s digital media use.
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Techno-toddlers: The digital practices of 0-3 year olds.
Jackie Marsh, University of Sheffield
In this presentation, Jackie will report on findings from ESRC-funded study in which the under 5's use of tablets and apps in the UK was studied. In the first stage of the study, a survey of 2000 parents of 0-5 year-olds who had access to tablets in the home was undertaken. In Stage 2, six case studies were undertaken of children using tablets in the home, using an ethnographic approach. The presentation will focus on the findings relating to children aged from birth to three and will outline very young children's access to and use of tablets, analysing the way in which children in their first years are drawn into digital family practices from birth, and soon develop their own preferred ways of using technologies.
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‘Toddlers and Tech': Policy Implications for Families and Parenting in the Digital Age
Professor Brian O’Neill, Dublin Institute of Technology
Policy making for digital parenting, particularly with regard to younger children, is still at a very early stage of development. To date, policy makers have been content to rely on experts such as paediatricians and psychologists when it comes to formulating guidance on children’s access to technology. However, given the pace of technological change, this may be insufficient or inadequate for the many issues now facing parents in regard to mediating the role technology plays in the lives of their children. In order to survey the dilemmas for policy makers as well as the gaps in current policy making in relation to technology in the lives of younger children (0-8 years old), this paper addresses three main issues from a European policy perspective. Firstly, how appropriate or effective is the approach of self-regulation when it comes to managing technology risks facing parents and younger children? How does this square, for example, in the banning of some smart toys for children? Secondly, how adequate and / or realistic is the emphasis given to effective digital parenting as a solution towards managing digital risks? Parents, we are told – at least from a practical point of view – are best placed to guide and oversee their children’s technology use. Yet, are parents adequately supported to undertake this important role. And thirdly, is the emergent regime on data protection regulation an indicator of a different approach that will shape families’ digital experiences in a different or better way? These three areas of policy debate combine to suggest a realm of policy thinking at a crossroads where the role of regulation in managing key parameters of digital experience for all users is being re-assessed. Arguably, the regulation of privacy is now arguably pre-eminent in this field and while particular attention has been given to the ‘digital age of consent’ (for children 13 years and over), connected technologies will shape all families’ digital participation, presenting ever-more challenging dilemmas for policy.
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Digital dialogue – does it make a difference in early childhood?
Professor Caroline Barratt-Pugh, School of Education, Edith Cowan University
Family involvement is a crucial aspect of high-quality early education and care. Meaningful family engagement in children’s early learning supports positive home-school relationships and ongoing academic success. However, increasingly many families have limited opportunities to connect with early childhood educators about their child’s learning. The pressure on educators to engage in pedagogical practices that do not necessarily take account of children’s ‘funds of knowledge’ ultimately disadvantage children, families and educators. Our research explores the way in which digital technologies, such as Seesaw, may help children, families and educators to reconnect. Early childhood educators and parents/carers from pre-primary classes in Western Australia took part in an on-line survey and were invited to take part in a semi-structured interview. The children were invited to take part in focus group discussions. The instruments were designed to elicit participants’ perceptions, involvement and outcomes of digital technology as a means of enhancing family- school connections. The findings are under review and will be revealed in this keynote - Digital dialogue – did it make a difference in early childhood?
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The Internet of Toys and Things (IoTTs) for children: Surveillance capitalism and children’s data
Dr Donell Holloway, School of Arts and Humanities, Edith Cowan University
Surveillance capitalism refers to new economic conditions in which online information (data) is converted into valuable commodities, and where the production of these commodities (data) relies on mass surveillance over the internet. This data is often extracted from the same population that will be eventual be its targets (Zuboff, 2104). In the case of children, the advent of internet-connected toys and children’s wearables, along with screen-based apps and games for children, has provided a significant opportunity for the appropriation of children’s digital labour for commercial profit within a surveillance economy. Concerns have been raised about how the commercial appropriation of children’s online information compromises the privacy and data security of children; often from children who are too young to consent to or understand the implications this practice. In addition, the consequences of accumulated data over a child’s lifetime–which will quickly outstrip the data accumulated by their parents—is of concern.
This talk examines the positioning of children both as objects of economic activity (as digital labourers) and subjects of market relations (as digital consumers) under surveillance capitalism (Andrejevic, 2014; Zuboff, 2015; Chowdry 2016). It traces the history of children’s engagement with the market economy from: their engagement in the labour force before and during industrial revolution times; their subsequent retreat, after a series of child labour law reforms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, into unproductive, domestic spaces; the ensuing positioning of children as market consumers in the 20th century (with varying degrees of agency and competency); and, more recently, their emergence as both data sources and data consumers within a big data economy. This talk will highlight how the emergence of internet-connected toys and things for children is significantly amplifying the value and significance of children’s data for commercial entities within the surveillance economy. Firstly, and despite having already been purchased and owned by consumers, the presence of embedded and connected software means that the customer is subject to long term contractual obligations. These terms and conditions enable data exchange between the child and the platform; the child and parent; and the child and other data sharing recipients. Furthermore, the assortment of sensors embedded in IoTTs for children provides new data sets that are already being captured and datafied. These new data sources include children’s voices, movements, locations, images, breathing and heartbeat patterns. This increase in the quantity and variety of data available for commercial profit raises concerns regarding children’s privacy and data security into the future.
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Turning Babies Into Big Data--And How to Stop It
Associate Professor Tama Leaver, Department of Internet Studies, Curtin University
New parents, in both the months before the birth of a child and the early years of life, routinely invest huge amounts of time, energy and money in sourcing as much information as they can about good parenting practices. Increasingly, this investment includes a range of apps, from pregnancy apps which provide normalized information about what to expect on a day to day basis during pregnancy, through to various apps links to monitoring devices, both manual and digital, during pregnancy and infancy. Far from just providing information, many of these apps now encourage parents to undertake specific monitoring and surveillance practices to capture large amount of data about their child. This data is often then aggregated by the corporations behind these reassuring apps – corporations which are driven by profit, and often see the aggregated data about the unborn or infants as a resource which can be aggregated, analysed and the outcomes eventually monetized. The commercial imperatives are often masked or overlooked by parents, who undertake this intimate surveillance with the very best intentions. While the argument here is not against the value of data and observation in specific circumstances, as part of considered practice to combat a specific illness or issue. Rather, I argue against the widespread and indiscriminate push to track, survey, encode, aggregate and analyse a wide range of activities from conception to the early years of childhood. In effect, the issue raised here is why so much data being collected about the unborn, babies and infants; how is this aggregated big data being used; and in which circumstances new parents should be better informed to allow them to decide on appropriate limits on their babies being turned into big data.
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