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Digital Play: Social network sites and the well-being of young children

Children’s Internet use is rapidly changing. Tweens' (9-12) usage patterns now resemble those of teenagers 5 to 6 years ago, and younger children’s (5-8) usage is approaching that of tweens. Primary school aged children are increasingly engaging in virtual worlds with social network functions (game sites such as Club Penguin, Minecraft or Webkinz). These spaces carry with them opportunities as well as risk. With policy resources often targeting high school children, the aim of this research with primary school students is to map the benefits, risks and competencies associated with these trends, and develop recommendations for parents and policy makers.

As children go online at younger ages, it is becomes increasingly important to understand the benefits and risks involved, and develop policy initiatives directed at promoting digital competencies and keeping children safe. The Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy (DBCDE) and the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) recognise the continuing importance of research informed policy to protect the interests of children (DBCDE 2012, p. 106; ALRC 2012, p. 226). The DBCDE’s Convergence Review gives significant assurances that there is no intention to introduce additional regulation for user-generated material. However, evidence based research indicates that children are most bothered by other children’s online behaviours (or child user generated content) (Green et al, 2011; Livingstone et al, 2011). This is not to say that child-generated content needs to be subject to formal classification and regulation. Rather, the social and behavioural issues associated with this research project need to be addressed though public education and debate.

Funding agency

Australian Research Council

Project duration

January 2014 - December 2016


Researchers

Dr Donell Holloway

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