Raising Children in a Digital Age (@CODECUK Research Seminar, 12th December 2013)

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  • In the introduction… Headlines = full of disaster, children are addicted to screens, being abducted via Facebook, giving away all their information, sexting, running up bills, becoming couch potatoes, watching porn, meeting strangers and bullying and trolling at every opportunity. I exaggerate, but then so does the news – which (by its nature) is focused on the new/the unusual and has left many people with a feeling that there’s very little that they can do … Set off to look into the research that’s already out there, and 120
  • Every new technology = moral panics (my experience with TV aged 17 … looked like I was addicted!) … and each seems to be the end of ‘the way we used to do things’ (invented tradition)…. A part of ‘technological determinism’.. Dan Gardner ‘Risk’ – we’re the healthiest, wealthiest, safest generation in history, but the most terrified… example post 9/11 flights/road accidents… but not ‘newsworthy’ in the same way. Families have also changed – children have more role in ‘decision making’, the types of families we have have changed and come in many more shapes…
  • Professor Tanya Byron, author of the Byron Report (2008), said: “I found the more that I understood what [my children] were experiencing, the more I felt empowered to support them to [go online] responsibly and safely, and the more freedom I felt comfortable for them to have”.Best way to engage with children = to have a better knowledge of the threats that they are facing – and don’t forget the possibilities … the technology = much wider/faster connections (all has up/downsides). Digital Revolution affected all our lives whether choose to participate or not.. Huge huge huge numbers onlineSo, what are the particular characteristics of digital culture? Digital material is both more ephemeral and more permanent than previous communication methods. It can be difficult to remove and it is easy to change, replicate, and share, which makes it difficult to distinguish between originals and their replicas. What the community chooses to highlight may not be what the author intended, and material can be disseminated fast, but this also means that a response can be made more quickly. Users can have a sense of being invisible, which can lead to irresponsible behaviour, but can also provide the anonymity necessary to encourage someone to engage with online support sites. We should remember, however, that, with a little work, anyone can be found and identified. In digital culture people tend to engage with increasing numbers of “friends”: it can be harder to detect possible risk, but those with “unique interests” can find friends more easily online.Need to be digitally literate, and not see tech as ‘the bad guy’ (like a brick – through window or build house) – lots of easier ways to stay in touch, and great opportunities for those with special needs...; Talking online/offline rather than virtual/real…
  • Like electricity – don’t need to know inside/out to use it … same with technology these days.. But giving an insight into the current top tools (though this will date the book quickly, no way round it really)… and actually many of the top tools – e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,etc have been fairly stable for several years now – definitely not moving as fast as it used to – so many platforms bought by each other, etc… Advice particularly focused on how to take control of your information (are a great many ways you can).
  • Yes, children spending more time on technology – become cheaper/more accessible – but that doesn’t mean that they ‘misbehave more’ – there are new ways to do things… The ‘myth’ of the digital native .. They are not so very different – still human beings – are not beyond our reach, just need some time to understand. How can make more positive choices, and see what changes in the teenage years (13+ when children legally online, etc.) – habit forming age, technology not seen as ‘technology’ – it just is.. Advertising, consumerism, the digital divide – where do kids turn to for advice (their friends) – start to think how to make yourself more of a confidante.
  • Talking to children about technology – many parents as nervous as talking about sex, but this is the most powerful tool/technique available… Ensure each negative statement about tech, etc. accompanied by positive where possible so doesn’t look like dismissing out of hand.. Chelsea Clinton did this re other forms of media whilst she was growing up. Internet Safety Agreement – work with kids to define one that works for your own family…
  • Martha Payne (NeverSeconds) – her Dad still checks everything she receives first… (age 9) – a brief overview of the changing capabilities of children – essentially younger = ‘walled garden’, older = deeper insights. Facebook = 13, many parents think 11 or think is up to them… Facebook influenced much – Zuckerberg believed privacy = dead, but children actually seem to be pretty intelligent about this – and if they aren’t – warning is not to go mad at them, but help them improve the situation.. The pros & cons of monitoring and filtering – can’t really just rely on the technology to stop things appearing in front of your children – none of the systems = as sophisticated as human beings.. Location services/managing digital footprint…
  • Turkle = photoshopped selves = danger that we’re only projecting a particular image of ourselves – I would say yes, but think do in all situations, and we need to raise awareness that people are not sharing everything of themselves online (nor do they in any situation) .. These were ideas from early days of the internet, but filtered into our everyday thinking… Children need role models – if parents have mobiles attached to them, then have no leg to stand on when try to remonstrate with children. Disinhibition/Anonymity
  • The word ‘friendship’ has changed as we now ‘friend’ others on Facebook – children can’t afford to not accept friend requests from those they interact with in the physical space (e.g. school) as has repercussions for offline life… (and most are offline connections) Huge amount of online etiquette – including who connect with, speed of response, what you like, etc.. Facebook depression (more/less socially active) Cyberbullying – huge issue – speed, constantly, digital pile-on are core – the 3 roles – bullied, bully, bystander.. (Nancy Willard – is not something kids HAVE to live through…) ‘Stranger Danger’ (incredibly rare) – and as parents increasingly make friends online, again, seems ironic to say to kids ‘don’t’, rather than helping them do so safely..
  • Mobile = cheaper, more accessible, appropriate contracts – so now the tool of choice for many – including kids. FOMO/need to respond = little digifree time – is the mobile becoming an intruder on other situations – many have set rules re e.g. mealtimes, etc. Worries about e-babysitter – though “OK” for educational purposes.. Work with them as they download apps (and ensure password on – throughout = are simple things that can be done…) Ensuring mobile phone costs are managed, and what age (secondary school for most, smartphone GCSE..) Worries about shortform text = damaging use of English = more creative…
  • Again = humanbehaviour exaggerated = more vulnerable offline, also online…Issues of the dangers of porn = complex, but tend to be condensed in the press… for years children have gone through ‘rite of passage’ – but now = easier to get hold of, more explicit, etc.. And changing expectations of what is normal sexual behaviour. Boys, unsurprisingly, more likely to seek it out (and is a danger as looking for those their age, are going to get in trouble for accessing those underage). Numbers of paedophiles difficult to determine as tend not to self-declare, and most stats comes from e.g. filtering companies… there is a danger, but more from those who are known – so good to be aware – and remember the technology can help you FIND children too…Sexting = age old pressure ‘if you don’t going to ditch you’ … so children need same advice to take care what share/when – as once out there – can spread fast…
  • Seen as Wild West, but it’s not – laws still apply (usually the originating country) Plagiarism, music, film, apps… dangers of viruses with illegal info…
  • Need to set up desk properly … more worrying = pro-mia sites, etc. advice on how to eat even less, etc. Brain changing – everything you do affects brain change = not necessarily bad… Addiction – is it really addiction? Is it affecting schoolwork, attention spans? Can people really multitask? Are these things all bad or are we just holding onto things that we treasure? Conversational ability (more social) and danger of couch potatoes – use whatever interest online and take it offline…
  • Standard advice = keep computer in a central room in the house – especially once teenage years = not really possible… Am AssocPead = consistently says 2 hours of screentime max … Bedroom culture; digital time out; reading online (is it about the book content or the book format?)
  • Gaming – not so much my thing, but increasing complexity of games online – without an end point, and rewards for the more time spent online/just one more level… Some argue has increased dexterity, sociability, esp for autistic kids…Are worries is violent, addictive and expensive… similar fears about horror films, most of which disproved by media ‘experts’.
  • Technology = prepares kids for the job market, OK to lurk & learn.Need for criticality (not always seen amongst early students) – need to be aware to avoid scams/Snopes, etc.CollaborationSocial Justice (clicktivism/activism)
  • I spotted this on Facebook as I was coming to the end of writing this book. It was posted by Will Taylor (communications manager, youth worker, and dad), and seems to sum up what is required of parents in the digital sphere: Do it for themDo it with themWatch while they do itLet them do it for themselves.
  • Parents increasingly taking responsibility for grandkids – need to be consistent – greatest growth = accessing picsTeachers = particular concerns – much of it defensive, but how can encourage children to engage whilst protecting selfYouth leaders = need for good boundaries, etc.
  • Only constancy is change … cannot make Internet 100% safe so need to give children confidence/skills – by giving them opportunities to engage online… (swimming pool analogy)
  • Final word – remember – there is always a human being at the other end of the keyboard… think before you type…Questions?


  • 1. Raising Children in a Digital Age Dr Bex Lewis, CODEC, Durham University; Director, Digital Fingerprint CODEC Research Seminar, Durham University, 12/12/13 https://www.dur.ac.uk/codec/about/events/researchseminars/
  • 2. Published by Lion Hudson February 2014
  • 3. Headlines!! Image Credit: Stockfresh
  • 4. Challenging Fears: Brief Lessons from History Image Credit: Stockfresh
  • 5. Digital Culture: Why it matters that we join in Image Credit: Stockfresh
  • 6. Technology: The Toolbox Image Credit: iStockphoto
  • 7. Children in Digital Culture Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 8. Communicate, Communica te, Communicate Image Credit: Stockfresh
  • 9. Practical Advice: Privacy & Permanency Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 10. Identity, Values and Authenticity Image Credit: Stockfresh
  • 11. Relationships (Online) Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 12. Increasingly Mobile Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 13. Sex Talk (Porn, Paedophilia and Sexting) Image Credit: Stockfresh
  • 14. Keeping within the Law Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 15. Health Works Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 16. Screen time and family dynamics Image Credit: Stockfresh
  • 17. Gaming Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 18. Does digital offer life opportunities? Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 19. Never forget Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 20. Thoughts for grandparents, teachers & youth leaders Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 21. Looking to the future Image Credit: RGBStock
  • 22. Published by Lion Hudson February 2014
  • 23. @drbexl @digitalfprint @bigbible