Tag Archives: technology

Parenting in the digital age – what age should children have a smartphone?

In this second post of the series on ‘Parenting in the digital age’, Dr. Jane O’Connor continues  to explore the relationship between children’s rights and digital technology.  

Young people and mobile phones

I recently had the following conversation with my soon to be 7 year old son that I think will sound familiar to many parents with children of a similar age:
‘Mum can I have a smartphone for my birthday?’
‘No’
‘Why not?’
‘Because you’re too young.’
‘When can I have one?’
‘When you’re older,’
‘How old?’
‘Oh I don’t know, twelve, maybe ten.’
‘That’s ages away.’
‘Well you are not allowed to have one until you are ten…it’s the law.’

It isn’t the law of course, but I’m beginning to wish it was.

Limiting our children’s access to digital technology is beginning to feel more and more akin to King Canute trying desperately to hold back the waves, and the ubiquitous presence of smartphones in ever younger hands makes it increasingly difficult to justify resisting the trend. On average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012. According to a recent survey of parents by Internet Matters the vast majority of children aged 8 to 11 in Britain now own a smartphone, with Newcastle and Nottingham having the very highest rates of ownership in this age group at 90.5% and 90% respectively. Many schools now ban smartphones from lessons and playgrounds, but the issue is still a pertinent one for parents to navigate, weighing up the pros and cons of the peace of mind of being able to be in constant contact with their children, with the attention grabbing and potentially disturbing diversions of the phone. The following quote from the US based Common Sense media website summarises why the decision to give your child a phone is not to be taken lightly and deserves careful thought:

when you hand your children cell phones, you’re giving them powerful communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. Parents really need to consider whether their kids are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully’.

Perhaps it is not about the age of the child after all, but about the kind of child they are and how they want to use their phone? I know my son just wants to play games on it, and so feel no compunction about delaying the acquisition of yet another screen based distraction, but clearly ownership is becoming the norm for children not much older than he is now. As well as protecting children, as parents we also surely have a responsibility to try and ensure that our children are not left out and are socially included. Furthermore, is it not hypocritical in the extreme for adults to use smartphones for ever increasing amounts of time and reasons and yet not want children to emulate that behaviour?

The historian and mythographer Marina Warner takes a broader view of the futility of trying to keep childhood and adulthood separate by restricting children’s access to the adult world. In her essay ‘Little angels little devils: keeping childhood innocent’ she argues that:

Children aren’t separate from adults…they can’t live innocent lives on behalf of adults…Children are our copy in little…in affluent cities of the West, they’ll wail for expensive trainers with the right label like their friends.'(1994: p48)

And today, clearly, they’ll wail for their own smartphones.

This desire to hold on to childhood innocence seems to be at the heart of parental concerns around children owing smartphones, but is that innocence, as Warner claims, simply a myth?

Young person and mobile phone

Related links and publications
https://www.commonsensemedia.org
http://influence-central.com/
https://www.internetmatters.org/
Warner, M (1994) Managing monsters – The Reith Lectures. London: Vintage.

Jane O’Connor

Dr Jane O’Connor is a Reader in Childhood Studies at Birmingham City University and is currently leading ‘Technobabies’, an international research project exploring parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen digital devices by 0-3 year olds. Jane started her professional life as a primary school teacher and moved into research due to her interests in constructions of childhood and children’s relationship with the media. Jane’s research interests include children and technology and children and celebrity.

Parenting in the Digital Age – young children’s rights and digital technology

Dr Jane O’Connor is a Reader in Childhood Studies at Birmingham City University and is currently leading ‘Technobabies’, an international research project exploring parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen digital devices by 0-3 year olds. In this post she explores the relationship between young children’s rights and digital technology. 

JOC 1My research into the use of mobile digital devices, such as iPads, by children under three has focused on the perspectives of parents and other care givers both in the UK and in a range of other countries including Sweden, Greece and Australia. Cultural differences aside, what has come across most strongly in the findings has been the sense of parental confusion and anxiety around whether or not their babies and toddlers should be allowed to use such devices, for how long and what the most appropriate apps may be. All of these decisions have to be made by families on a daily basis with, as yet, little research evidence from trustworthy sources to guide them. As one parent in Greece put it:

‘We just want to know if children win or lose from using iPads’.

Unfortunately, even with growing numbers of researchers working in the area, the definitive answer to that question is a long way off and the reality is much more nuanced than the question might suggest. The multiple potential benefits and drawbacks of allowing 0-3s to use digital devices continue to be debated, although the general consensus among both parents and professionals seems to be that moderation and supervision are the keys to safely incorporating such technology into very young lives.

However, what has been missing from much research in the area so far, including my own, is a consideration of the issue of children’s rights. We need to think about the extent to which we can say that children, even the very youngest children, have a right to use digital technology and how this might, or indeed should, influence parental decisions in relation to access to mobile devices. When we consider the charter of children’s rights drawn up by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), it seems that preventing usage could be perceived as an infringement of some rights, but an upholding of others. Andy Phippen, Professor of Children and Technology at Plymouth University recently outlined some of the ways in which this could relate to very young children’s technology usage. For example, he suggests that removing all possible ‘risk’ to the child by not allowing them to use digital technology could be interpreted as infringing Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child), Article 17 (Access to information; mass media) and Article 28 (Right to education), whereas the use of mobile devices for ‘digital pacification’ purposes could be seen as infringing on Article 3 (Best interests of the child) and Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child).

JOC 2In this context, the questions parents need answers to become even more complex. As well as worrying about whether using digital technology will support baby’s learning or damage their eyes they also need to ask ‘Does allowing my child to use an iPad infringe on their rights or support them?’

Related publications

O’Connor, J. and Fotakopoulou, O. (2016) A threat to early childhood innocence or the future of learning? Parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen technology by 0–3 year olds in the UK. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 17(2).

O’Connor, J. (2017)Appropriate play? Parents’ reflections on 0-3s using touchscreen technology in the home’. In Arnott, L. (2017) Digital Technologies and Learning in the Early Years. London: SAGE.

O’Connor, J., Fotakopolou, O., Hatzigianni, M and Fridberg, M. (2018) ‘Parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen technology by 0-3 year olds in the UK, Greece, Sweden and Australia’. In Palaiologou, I. (Ed) (2018 forthcoming) Digital Practices in Early Childhood Education: An International Perspective. London: SAGE.

 

Meet the CSPACE Team – Kirsty Devaney

Name: Kirsty DevaneyBlack and white headshot

Role at BCU: Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant in Education. I teach on the Early Years and Primary PGCE courses helping teachers include music into their classrooms. I also lecture and run projects at Birmingham Conservatoire and teach composition and theory at Birmingham Conservatoire Junior Department.

Research Interests:

  • Music Education – composing in classrooms
  • Creativities in education and school
  • The creative & composing processes
  • Assessment of creativity
  • Technology in music education

Research you are currently working on: I am mainly working on my PhD investigating composing in upper secondary schools at examination level. I am looking at how the assessment of composing impacts the teaching and learning of composing in the classroom.Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 23.14.51

Other research includes a composing project with BCU, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) and Sound and Music. My role was assisting with the action research that secondary music teachers were doing with their students. I have also been involved in London scheme ‘Teach Through Music’ conducting interviews for the research on behalf of my supervisor.

I run a number of education projects at Birmingham Conservatoire and always include an element of action research. I am now planning a collaborative cross-disciplinary research project looking at composing and creative writing working working with Amanda French and Becky Snape. 

Research methodologies you are using: For my PhD I am using a mixed methods approach collecting qualitative and quantitative data through:

  • Two online surveys (KS4 & 5)
    • Follow-up telephone interviews
  • Five case studies
    • Semi-structured interviews with music teacher
    • Focus Group interviews with students (KS4 & 5)
    • Classroom Observations
  • Semi-structure interviews with ‘composer-educators’

I have taken a grounded theory approach to my research and each stage of the data collection informs the next.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: With the introduction of the Ebacc music in education in under threat. Many teachers I work with regularly have said they have already seen an impact on what subjects students are deciding to take, with the more ‘academic’ students being pressured even more into taking not just the Ebacc subjects, but doubling up (e.g. 2 languages). This is leaving very little space for students to take other subjects such as music, art or drama. I worry that numbers will start to fall dramatically and that schools will pull GCSE, BTEC and A-Level music along with other subject. My little sister (currently in year 8) is startimusic percng to plan her GCSE options and she wants to do art, music, drama and textiles – why is this set of subjects seen as ‘inferior’ and why should her enjoyment of school, and potential future be decided by someone else who think they know what is best for her?

I also worry that exams are becoming more about ‘assessing what is easily assessable’ rather than assessing what is important. Teachers and students become very aware how to ‘play the game’, and ‘tick the boxes’ for the exams but this wastes time for students to be musicians, composers and having a meaningful musical experience. Teachers are under intense pressure to ‘achieve’ and get high grades with these exams – if they don’t the future of their students, their careers and music in the school is at risk.

Most influential research you have read/seen: Legg, R. (2012) Bach, Beethoven, Bourdieu: ‘Cultural capital’ and the scholastic canon in England’s A-level. The Curriculum Journal 23(2):157-172

Having been struggling with how Bourdieu’s concepts on ‘cultural capital’ & ‘social mobility’ relate to my own research, this article really helped me reflect on the data I have been collecting and how it links to wider social issues.

Advice for new researchers: I studied as a composer for 4 years and wrote more music than I did words; so coming to do a PhD terrified me! What I have come to realise that my background in composing has really helped my research and that is a strength not a weakness. Find your own strengths and don’t compare yourself to others around you. The more I talk to people the more I realise everyone gets ‘imposter syndrome’ at some point.

Kirsty Forwards 2015 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For me the PhD is about tracking how your own thinking has developed and grown over the years. It changes the way you view the world and how you make connections through everyday events.

Mini fact about you: I have a phobia of red jelly!

18 months in to the PhD – reflections

Written by Shannon Ludgate, PhD Student, School of Education – Early Yearsshan
@ShannonLudgate

Shannon Ludgate is researching children’s experiences using touchscreen technologies in different early years settings. She has written a blog about her experiences 18 months in:

“The data collection period has taught me how important it is to be flexible to the needs of the setting and to be adaptable.”

“…it must be acknowledged that at times practitioners are aware of why I am in their setting, so may opt to use technology more”

“Focus-group interviews with children have been interesting; it was great to hear their views and for them to take control and show me what they most liked about touchscreen use, demonstrating their skills during conversations.”

“This (my research) will hopefully empower each setting to develop touchscreen use in ways in which they see fit and appropriate for their children.”

To read the full blog go to: https://shannonludgate.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/18-months-in-to-the-phd-reflections/

Shannon’s 4 months reflections: http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/education/2015/06/22/my-phd-experience-four-months-in/

Shannon’s data collection reflections: http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/education/2015/11/16/data-collection-time/

Meet the CSPACE Team – Alex Wade

Name: Dr. Alex Wade

alex W Role at BCU: Researcher

Research Interests:

  • Technology and Education
  • Young People
  • Digital Media and Relationships
  • History of Technology

Research you are currently working on:

  • Sexting and young people
  • Use of Simulations in Speech and Language Therapy
  • Fundamentals of General Practice Nursing Evaluation
  • Lunch and Brunch Clubs Evaluation
  • British Videogames of the 1980s

Research methodologies you are using: Genealogy; habitus; simulations and simulacra; dromology; cultural histories.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: It continues to amaze me how many areas have so little research undertaken in them. If you can find an emergent, or under-researched area, you can potentially – if you so wish – have a whole life dedicated to research in a topic where it is impossible to exhaust the possibilities. The aphorism, ‘we spend all of our life learning and die stupid’ is never truer than when applied to research – and to education!

Most influential research you have read/seen: Jean Baudrillard’s The Transparency of Evil. In 1993 it appeared to be prescient, now it is prophetic.

Advice for new researchers: Your degree by research is a driving licence that allows you to undertake the real learning that takes place after you pass. You will never have the opportunity to do such an expansive and broad piece of work again (even if you write a book!). So, whether PhD or professional doctorate, it is a reference work and a tool, but most importantly a position that you will return to again and again and is the basis for everything that follows.

Mini fact about you: I can read upside down as proficiently as I can the ‘right way up’, which I understand is one of the pre-requisites for joining MI6. (I may actually be a triple agent . . . . )

 

My PhD experience – four months in

Written by Shannon Ludgate, PhD Student, School of Education – Early Years

Making the decision to embark on a PhD journey has been the biggest decision I’ve made so far. Being just 21 and starting a PhD, it’s fair to say I felt incredibly under-experienced, questioning my ability to take on this challenge at such a ripe age. Nonetheless after much thought and discussions with my undergraduate peers, family and partner, I submitted the application form with my fingers and toes crossed. After being successful, I have embarked on a journey to research experiences children aged three to four years have, and how this has the potential to enhance their learning (specific area yet to be decided).

With not knowing what to expect with a PhD, particularly as I was introduced to the opportunity with just weeks to read up on and write a research proposal, I searched endlessly on the web and in books to discover what it meant to be writing a thesis, and what it might look like as an end product. Doing a little background reading into these areas provided me with the initial knowledge I would need, with what to expect and what I would be doing.

Regardless of the literature, starting on my first day felt unusual; as an undergraduate, I had a whole network of friends, academics to talk to, and support 24/7. Walking into the office, I was greeted by another PhD student; I felt a little out there on my own. Looking back, I can see the need to adapt to this new lifestyle – reading endlessly on my new topic, trying to find out what had already been researched and where the interesting little gaps were in the literature. Four months on, I can positively say I’ve enjoyed the journey, even though I am only just starting! I am happy to admit I have changed my ideas too many times to remember, but I see it as a refinement process; my ideas are becoming more absolute as I progress. I am really excited to get started, to get out there in the field and start collecting interesting data, but I know there’s a lot to do before.

As the days pass I can see how I am progressing towards that point, and making initial contact with settings to conduct the research has been exciting, I can almost touch it – the beginning of data collection. I know that a great challenge lies ahead of me, and after speaking to other PhD students, I feel somewhat ready for it. I am eager to begin and enjoy this journey, after all, I’m researching something that really interests me and I want to inspire others with my work.

To research very young children’s experiences with touchscreens is such an appealing topic. Having completed my undergraduate in the early years field, this topic held so much interest and everyone I have spoken to has gave an opinion on it. Our youngest children using technology isn’t something that is overlooked; there are people all for it, and of course, those who absolutely dispute against it, expressing health and social development concerns to name a few.

TEE open day October 2010. TEE open day October 2010.

I’ve had great support so far from everyone around me; my supervisor has sat and listened to my ideas, even if they’re not fully formed in my own mind, but expressing them in some way has helped me to realise what I’d like to research. Gaining advice from others is a definite must, and having others to support you on the journey I’ve been told is advisable.

For now I’m keen to begin, although I’m not really sure when I can actually say I’m beginning (of course I began in September), but I know it’s coming soon. My time as a PhD student has been great so far, and I can see the next three years being the most interesting and insightful yet.