World-first study explores children’s connection with digital technology

Michael Williams
Michael Williams

A world-first study on young children’s engagement with digital technologies has launched.

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child has begun a four-year longitudinal study involving more than 3,000 families, and it is poised to provide insights into the evolving landscape of childhood in the digital era.

“Digital technologies are not only being used by our very youngest children but are also being accessed at an ever-accelerating rate,” says Centre Director, Professor Susan Danby.

“This raises a fundamental question for parents and caregivers: What does the pervasive presence of digital technologies mean for your children?” 

Digital Child Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager Dr Tara Roberson says the Australian Children of the Digital Age (ACODA) study will examine the families about the types of technologies they use, the frequency and context of technology use, and caregiver perspectives of technology usage and its influence on children’s health and well-being.

She hopes the results will help influence policy and guidelines, the nature of expert advice, and improve education and health access for all Australian children.

One issue the study aims to address is inequities related to children’s use of digital technology.

“Many children across different communities in Australia did 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,” she told EducationDaily. 

“Children experiencing digital exclusion miss out on access to knowledge and important social connections.

“By collecting population-level data, ACODA will inform evidence-based advice for policymakers on how and where access should be improved.”

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Another major focus of the study is on children’s long-term well-being when engaging online regularly.

“Digital technologies can optimise communication networks and help build relationships, improve health and education outcomes, and offer play opportunities,” Dr Roberson says.

“They act as a means for connection in local, national and global contexts, and clearly children’s present and future lives will require the capacity to work in digital ways. 

“However, the other side of this contentious debate rightly identifies issues of inequality for young children connected via the internet to potentially unknown people and spaces, and there are concerns that engaging in digital ways of working may negatively impact children’s health and education.”

Families with children aged between six months and five years are eligible to join the study by visiting

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Michael R Williams has been writing for regional newspapers for the past 3 years, including delivering the Longreach Leader to its 100th year. He is passionate about the opportunity journalism offers him to interview and tell the stories of Australians with a broad and diverse range of backgrounds. He is an obsessive reader and podcast listener.