Luminaries - Unlocking the power of digital literacy to empower children
I'm Professor Lisa Kervin, Director of Early Start Research at the University of Wollongong and Chief Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child. It's a pleasure to welcome each and every one of you here today. Luminaries brings together leading UOW researchers, industry experts and thought leaders for a one hour conversation every fortnight. We will discover how research and collaboration at the University of Wollongong is tackling global challenges. Today we welcome researchers from our School of Education in our ASSH faculty, who are also members of the UOW node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child.
And together we're going to discuss our interdisciplinary work on digital literacies. But before we start, I would like to acknowledge Countr. On behalf of the University, I would like to acknowledge that country for Aboriginal peoples is an interconnected set of ancient and sophisticated relationships. The University of Wollongong spreads across many interrelated Aboriginal countries that are bound by this sacred landscape, an intimate relationship with the landscape since the creation. From Sydney to the Southern Highlands to the south coast, from fresh water to bitter water to salt, from city to urban to rural.
The University of Wollongong acknowledges the custodianship of the Aboriginal peoples of this place and space that has kept alive the relationships between all living things. The University acknowledges the devastating impact of colonisation on our campus' footprint and commit ourselves to truth telling, healing and education. Here at Early Start, we recognise the special place that we hold on our local Aboriginal country, a place of great knowledge and learning and teaching and we feel really privileged to be able to work in this space and and draw the knowledges that are around us. I'd like to welcome our panellists today.
Associate Professor Jessica Mantei with expertise in language and literacy and education, Associate Professor Cathrine Nielsen-Hewitt with expertise in child development and educational psychology. Associate Professor Dylan Cliff with expertise in health and children's movement behaviours. Dr. Rebecca Ng with expertise in sociology to help understand digital connections. We
encourage members of the audience to submit their own questions using the Q&A function. We'll try and get through as many of those as possible, and I'll be moderating that spot alongside our colleague Jill today. So in preparation for our webinar today, we posted three scenarios. Now here at Early Start, we're very fortunate to be able to work alongside children and their adults day in and day out. And since we have established the Centre of Excellence node here at UOW and perhaps you may have seen or visited us at the children's technology playspace, we are asked loads and loads of questions around digital technologies and what it means to be literate in this time and place. So the scenarios that we shared with you are three very real scenarios that families have shared with us.
Things that they've asked about playing online games and networking with others, what to do about inaccurate information on the Internet, sharing photos on social media and issues of consent. So as a team, we have used those scenarios and there are countless others that we could have included as well. But we focussed on these three scenarios to shape our conversations and we shape our conversations from our interdisciplinary perspectives. So when we talk about literacy, people like Jessica and I have worked in a language and literacy field for some time, we sort of claim a little bit of ownership over what it means to be digitally literate, but what we're doing through our centre work is pushing those boundaries and thinking around how we can problematise and how we can think about things differently by drawing upon interdisciplinary perspectives. So what a treat we are in to have a sociologist, a psychologist and a health and movement person on the screen alongside some literacy expertise as well. So Jessica, we have understood digital literacy for some time to be about the ability to use tools and also the ways that we interact, respond and critique information.
Does this still ring true? What else is happening? What does it really mean to be digitally literate? Hi, Lisa, and thanks for asking me this wonderful, if somewhat slippery question. I'm thinking about children and technology is somewhat fraught, isn't it? Because we want children to play and learn and interact using technology. We want them to take up the wonderful things technology has to offer. But we also worry about the dangers of digital technologies.
Some are perceived, but others are quite real. We want children to be safe, and it's challenging for parents and other adults to try to navigate this territory with young children. And so that's why it's useful to think about what it means to be digitally literate today, not just for children, but for ourselves as to as supposedly proficient users and consumers of digital texts.
So at its core, I would say that being digitally literate is the capacity to make meaning. And when I say make meaning, I'm talking about understanding, talking about comprehension, understanding the messages that are being offered to us in various different ways, and also the ability to create messages of our own through the texts that we create. It is true, Lisa, that digital literacy is about the capacity to use digital tools, about mastering sets of skills, because being able to read the words and the images to save files, to upload content and to deal with large volumes of information is more important in an environment where there is more of that information coming from more places than ever before, and it's all available at our fingertips. So just like being literate in a non-digital environment, though, it's about more than skill mastery. It's more than just accumulating a pile of stuff that I can do.
It's about using those skills to interact, to respond, and to critique content as well. And the extra part that comes with it. Is that what that means? Interacting, responding and critiquing continues to evolve as technologies evolve and offer us new ways to interact and to work with text. Today. We understand the digital environment is a system that's driven by people. Without people, the environment doesn't change.
But being digitally literate is about understanding this as a social system and operating within it in ways that are critical, creative and philosophical as well. I talked about making meaning. We make meaning using words and images sound, the gestures that we use, the proximity, how close we are, or far away from somebody or to something. We do that in the physical environment to position ourselves as a certain kind of person. And we do the same in the digital world.
In the digital world, we are creative in producing texts. We take up personas that invite others to see us as being trustworthy or a good friend, or perhaps a certain kind of gamer or an expert in hip hop dancing, a chef, a car mechanic. The list goes on.
We create a persona for ourselves and we would like people to take that up and we'd like people to take up those ideas. And that's an important part of digital literacy. And of course, other people within this system are doing similar things. They're similarly creative and strategic in attempting to influence us to take up certain views about them promoting themselves as somebody who's trustworthy or a good friend or that great car mechanic that you need. And also to take up their ideas if they share something that they call information and that they call a good idea, they pitching that in a way they want us to take it on. And so as consumers of the texts of other people, we're required to understand or make many of those texts and interactions on offer.
And that's why it takes more than just the accumulation of skills. It takes those other areas as well, being critical thinking philosophically. So we can say then that to be digitally literate today is to understand that complex social system. And for young children, they're starting out in developing that proficiency. They are not born knowing what to do. None of us are.
And that development of proficiency will continue throughout our lives and be influenced by the sorts of interactions that we have online and also the interactions that we have with others as we are online, both in the physical space but also online as well. And so that's when adults, parents and other important adults in a child's life come into play there. We need to use our digital skills to be social, to be interactive, creative and responsive to the opportunities on offer.
But let's be really clear about this. Being social doesn't mean being naive. Just as we are in a physical environment, we read the cues. We're vigilant, critical and sensitive to the messages we're conveying and those that are being presented to us. We have to be active. One of the examples that we talked about in this group as we were preparing for this presentation today was one about a young child researching online and coming across what we called inaccurate information.
We had a great conversation about this and what our immediate responses were, and mine was great an opportunity for learning. What can we learn here about this information and the ways that I understand information more generally? So not just this one piece, but information more broadly. And so we can sit with that child. If we get this kind of thing happening and we can start with understanding the messages, that's back to that idea of making meaning, asking what is this text telling us to do that together? What makes us think that this is actually inaccurate? Is it inaccurate or is it another point of view? And how can we find out? So we would check some other sources of information on the same topic. This is getting to that philosophical part of interacting within the system, the view that nothing comes from nowhere.
We know that anyone can be an author within the digital system and they can come from anywhere in the world. So we can wonder what the context of this author is that's led them perhaps to to generate these views. And perhaps it's about accuracy or inaccuracy or perhaps about understanding different perspectives. And once we've done that, we can engage the child in being active using their own digital literacy proficiencies at that point. Perhaps they could be a producer of a new text that shared another view on that same topic.
And this then opens the door for that child to develop and share their own understandings and to stand on what it is that they know so far. There are so many great examples of these competing views. We only need a couple of minutes on a news feed on social media to learn about which is the best sporting team or the best cake you can make under 3 minutes. Whether Bluey is good or bad, and even the best way to teach reading and writing. But families don't need to do this work alone.
Parents and other adults can connect with the research as it's translated into practice. And a great example is right here on the UOW campus as Lisa mentioned before, we had the children's technology play space. A living lab that's part of the centre of excellence for the Digital Child. And the work we do in that play space can support parents to think about developing their child's digital literacy proficiencies in just those ways.
Yes, to build skills, but also the capacity to use those skills in creative ways, critically and philosophically. And we'd love to see children and families coming along to see us. Being digitally literate is about being discerning. It means using our skills, our knowledge is our understandings to be active, critical, discerning, ethical and safe consumers and producers within the system. And as adults, it's our role to come together to support children in that development. But Lisa, I think that's enough for me, so I'll just pass back over to you.
Thanks so much, Jess, and thanks for reminding us around that complex social system. And when we're thinking about digital literacy, I guess our first inclination is to think about the human component of it, right? What it means to actually be the reader. But the complex texts that we're interacting with are really powerful as well. And you've given us some insights into the different modes that we're actually reading when we are thinking about a digital text and how they are or the intricate ways that they come together. Thank you.
Cathrine, drawing on your expertise in early childhood education in psychology, what do young children need to be able to do to navigate the digital? Can they do these things that Jess has just profiled for us? Thanks, Lisa. I think Jess first talked about research in practice and I think I just want to say from the outset that from both a research and practice lens, I think there's a pressing need to award a much stronger focus on understanding digital digital literacy in digital environments amongst our youngest citizens. But I think in order to be able to understand what young children need, I think we first need to be looking at how children understand technology. So what do they take from these experiences? But we also need to understand how they use technology.
So Jess talked a little bit about what constitutes digital literacy. However, we know that this is going to vary across contexts and it certainly varies according to children's ages. So we know that children as young as two and three are participating in the digital space and for many children, digital platforms are becoming spaces to play and spaces for socialisation, but they're also becoming really important spaces for learning.
So I think in discussions such as this around digital literacy and children's engagement in the digital space, I think we really need to be informed around considerations of what is needed to really support young children's learning. But also it's about having a lens on children's rights as well as children's safety in these spaces. So if I think from a developmental perspective, young children and for those of you online, when I'm talking about young children, I'm talking about that birth to five so the prior to school years, but young children don't necessarily have the social emotional skills nor the cognitive capacity to effectively navigate the complexities of the digital environment on their own. And we know from an educational perspective that young children learn best through experiential learning, so they learn through engaging in concrete examples.
And typically this occurs within the context of those really rich and responsive play based experiences. And then if we think about the digital landscape, by contrast, it's quite abstract. So I think we need to be considering ways of bringing these concepts to life for children if we're thinking about their learning. And I think we only need to just think about pedestrian safety behaviours and road safety awareness for an example, we know that until the age of 11 years, children need active adult supervision to help them to safely navigate driveways and car parks and to cross roads and even children who seem to know all the road safety rules won't necessarily remember to follow them. And that's simply because the parts of their brains that are needed to navigate this space.
So being able to reconcile multiple sources of information, being able to engage in abstract thinking, those things are still developing for children. So when you ask Lisa what do children need? We can't just think about this in terms of individual children's knowledge and skills. We need to be mindful of the digital capacities and knowledge and attitudes of the adults who are supporting children to navigate this space. So the first need then is the importance of an adult presence, so that competent other within the digital space. And I think we also know that much of young children's early digital experiences are dictated by the choices made by their adults. So whether this is about sharing images of children, what games they choose to play, what online learning sites they engage with, so a shared lens between the needs of the child and the needs of the adult is going to be really important when we're talking about younger children in the digital space.
Now, I do just want to touch on those issues of safety and learning, and there's certainly been a slow change in this area. So discussions are moving, albeit slowly away from a sole focus on risk and safety towards one that's much more rights based. And it speaks to the importance of children's right to expression, their right to play, their right to learn. So if we return to that question Lisa, in thinking about what young children need, we need to support them to understand what these digital things are.
So how do they work? How do they interact with them? How to be safe, how to be kind in a world that's interconnected by digital technologies. And of course, this needs to be weighed up against the risks to children's security and privacy. So as adults so we're the more competent other, we need to be thinking about the best way to manage the risks associated with digital engagement and exposure while responding to the reality of digital existence and indeed the potential benefits of supporting young children's engagement with the digital world. So as we think about this, it's not a question of should they or shouldn't they? I think we've moved far beyond that debate now for young children. We know that in order to learn and to develop, children need to understand the world. And and that world includes living things and non-living things and digital things.
So I think if it's done correctly, then early exposure to digital technology can be used to support children's learning. It can foster problem solving skills. You know, children come together, they might be designing a town, they might be designing what building products they need in order to construct the town. It can foster effective communication, so chatting to friends or relatives. And it's certainly important for social skills.
So how do you form friendships? Notions of reciprocity and kindness and cooperation. And of course, these concepts are challenging in real life, and they are potentially amplified within the digital space. So I guess as we continue to think about young children's digital engagement, we need to consider the role of the child. We need to consider the
role of the adult, and we need to consider ways to use technology together in a way that encourages communication and collaboration and considers children's rights. And so their rights to embed their voice, their right for choice without placing safety or security at risk. Wow. Thanks, Cathrine.
What a what a whirlwind you've taken us on, reminding us not only about the, you know, the the importance of digital literacies for children, but the responsibilities adults have in that space, too, to be that competent other. And I think that that's really useful. So if we're starting to piece our puzzle together, you know, we know that there's lots of interesting things happening in online environments. We know that there's responsibilities for adults, we know that there's experiences happening for children.
Both the you, Cathrine and Jessica talked about digital platforms and the idea of something like another world that's happening out there. Rebecca, much of what it means to be digitally literate is knowing how digital platforms work. So can you explain for us what how the choices that we make online contribute to what we see and the digital experience for the child and how how the choices that we make actually guide our online experience. Thanks, Lisa. So I thought I'll start by kind of supplementing this picture of the digital environment that I think Jess and Cathrine have already talked about. But really just give a sense of what children are, you know, how children are navigating this online space.
So we know children and families use digital platforms for very varied reasons, right? So they play games, they watch YouTube, they look for information, they participate in social activities with other people and this and this much more, not just children, but we also love it because of how vast the digital environment is, how personalised our search results can be, and how instantaneous it is for us to find entertainment, like minded people, etc.. So while we do know, and I think Jess and Cathrine mentioned that that anyone can post information online because the barrier to entry for publishing is so low or that, you know, digital platforms, we already know that they're collecting information about us. This actually a lot of unknowns to children, to families and even experts around what is happening.
For example, how trustworthy is the information we find online? What do companies do with the data they collect about us and who can we actually trust? So a great example of this kind of elusiveness, I would say, of digital platforms. And also hot topic, I guess is generative AI right. So Microsoft and OpenAI, which runs ChatGPT, were recently sued for systematically scraping 300 billion words off the Internet, including personal and sensitive information obtained without consent. So while this lawsuit is unlikely to change kind of the outcomes in the ways digital platforms, particularly big tech operate, there's really the question of how discerning and, you know, we talk about how discerning individuals are, but also how discerning technology companies Chat GPT actually is in interpreting this information. So we have all heard, I'm sure, of ChatGPT giving citations of books that actually don't exist.
So on top of that, it is taking and using information about us in ways that are very invisible. We know algorithms on AI, search engines and social media may use this information to circle us back to the things that we think we are interested in. So if we, for example, stumbled across a video of a person claiming to be an expert in why vaccination is a conspiracy, we may very well be recommended more content from the same person or others who are in support of this view, even though we may not necessarily be of that view. And so we may be very susceptible because of the environment that we are in. But even though the environment that we're in is telling us, you know that we like this thing, the data and algorithms actually don't know about what we are truly experiencing how we actually are experiencing kind of the digital space and beyond. So taking a systems approach, what does this mean about the choices we make online? And I think that goes back to your question.
It means a lot of our choices may not really be our choices on digital platforms because they personalise information they want us to see. And it is also, you know, it also means that a lot of information presented back to us may be misleading, misconstrued or incorrect because anyone with the skills can post their opinions online, whether they are accurate or not. So in going back to the theme of digital literacy, it is then important for children and families to not just be able to use digital platforms, but to understand and critically evaluate the digital environment that they are in. Recognising that some of the things we enjoy, such as personalisation or how instantaneous and wonderful it is to find answers we want immediately, they have their pitfalls. And in thinking about the scenarios you posted, Lisa, how can we then equip children, especially young children who Cathrine has talked about, you know, you know where they are still developing the skills to navigate the digital space? How can we equip them with the necessary critical systems knowledge or meaning making, as just mentioned, about the digital environment alongside skills and language, to be able to ask questions around misinformation or, you know, just to be able to articulate why they don't want someone sharing a photo about them, because it may very well be in a public space and they feel embarrassed. To be able to say that
I think is pretty important. And of course, this needs to be worked through with families and adults who can then foster this relationship children have with the digital environment and being able to critically kind of understand platforms in the digital environment is so important to being able to make more authentic choices online. Thanks, Rebecca. I love that how you said our choices are not really our choices. I'm sure that there's a few people that might have had a bit of a momentarily gasp that at that suggestion. And it's interesting, when we were planning and working together around this topic, we talked about the phenomenon of the eggs cracking on children's heads.
And I don't know about the other panellists, but my feed has been inundated with those examples. So perhaps there is some listening that's happening when we're, when we're around devices and how to manage that is something to consider. Dylan, we've heard lots of different perspectives already. I'm really interested to know what sense your making of this. How is your health expertise connecting with the discussion? Thanks, Lisa. Yeah, it's been a really, really interesting discussion so far.
I'd just like to add a few numbers, add some data to the discussion. So in a study by the ESafety Commission, 81% of Australian parents said their 2 to 5 year olds were using the Internet. In another study cited by the Commission, 89% of all four year olds would click on a pop up, even if they could not read it and did not know what it was about. 73% of four year olds said they would tell someone their name and address online and 70% said they would tell them their age. So we know that many young children are online.
We know they are at a vulnerable developmental stage, as Cathrine has explained, and we know they're willing and fairly happy to share kind of personal information. So what can we do about this? One option is to ban digital technology use altogether for young children, but this really doesn't seem realistic or feasible in modern society. So supporting children in developing the capabilities such as digital literacy will help to prepare them for life online.
One of the scenarios that we were asked to consider involved a child playing online, sorry, playing an online game and being asked to kind of connect or network with somebody they didn't know. As a health educator, this had me thinking about the concept of stranger danger, which is a concept that parents and teachers have been teaching children for decades. So many parents start to teach concepts of stranger danger in early childhood, and these concepts will be reinforced in areas of health education focussed on safety as children go through primary school. So children learn about this concept quite early in life.
So teaching children about stranger danger online can be a progression of what they're being taught about in the physical world. But there are additional challenges for the online world. So if a child's playing at a park, they'll fairly quickly be able to differentiate between an individual who is an adult and a stranger. And maybe they shouldn't talk to that person or connect with them compared to a child who might be of a similar age to them might also be a stranger.
But if they introduce themselves, they might be able to start playing with the child. They might be able to make friends and this is a normal part of socialisation. And so children can differentiate here. The big difference in the online world, as Cathrine noted, is that children can't tell.
They can't tell the difference and they can't initially understand the concept that someone might be able to hide their identity online and be somebody else that they haven't portrayed they are. And so that's an abstract concept and young children won't have developed that kind of thinking just yet. However, through the guidance of supportive adults, children can develop digital literacy skills, particularly to ask themselves questions and to be critical of what they know or what they think they know. And so with supportive adults, they can start to think who is the person or who do I think they are? What do I know about them and how do I know that? Why are they contacting me? And could I be wrong? Could they be hiding who they really are? Now, these are tricky questions. And indeed, many, many adults every year get tricked by online scammers pretending to be someone they're not. So we can't expect children to
be able to kind of solve or even ask themselves these questions by themselves. They need the supportive adult, as Cathrine highlighted for us. But through the process of developing digital literacy skills, we can empower children to be cautious and critical without being anxious and scared of the digital world. And in doing so, we can prepare them to play, to learn, and to live in the digital world they are growing up in. Thanks, Lisa.
Thanks, Dylan. Some really thought provoking comments there. Cautious and critical. I think that's that's really a nice way of thinking about how we can interact in an online environment and the reminder that as adults, sometimes we don't get it right either. So when we're talking about the digital and, you know, digital footprints is something that comes up. We've just had a question
around what digital footprints actually mean. So when I think about digital footprints, we're often talking about something that might we might look back on in the future. So when we're thinking around what it is that we create our profile, that we create online, we're talking about how we might feel about that down a period of time. I wonder, Cathrine, if you might be able to help us think about how we can understand, help children understand that abstract idea of a digital footprint and looking into the future. Yeah, I mean, that's such a good question. Whoever posted that?
I think there are two points for consideration when we're talking about young children's understanding of digital footprints. And I think the first is this concept and understanding of the future and also how information is transmitted through digital space. And the second is around who is creating the footprint I think for young children and I have three children and I've often talked to them about the permanency of what we share through social media. And while I can certainly raise hypotheticals with my 16 year old son about his future self, I think the concept of time and future forecast is much more complicated when it comes to young children, because considering a future self relies on children's ability to plan, to think ahead, to have a semantic concept of time. But you also need to be able to take another person's perspective because you don't know that future self.
So you're taking their perspective on their view on that. And if that concept of time, anyone here who has a young child who's worked with young children knows time is such a difficult concept for young children to truly comprehend. So we often used to like with my children, I used concrete examples like nannies coming next week, now that means seven sleeps. So those are very specific examples. Or we might be in the car and when are we going to be there? We're going to be there in an hour.
That's two episodes of Bluey. So that idea of the future I think is really tricky. And I think children need concrete examples and typically play based ones.
So we need to demonstrate to a young child how a message can be sent from a phone to a computer or how photos are shared on the Internet or even like how does our ubereats driver no way to bring our food when we order online and the whole concept of a GPS. So I think that is really tricky, but it's really around those play based experiences. But I do just want to add one point around digital footprints in the future, and I think a significant risk for young children is their early digital footprints are created by people other than themselves.
So it's parents might be doing it, teachers might be doing it, educators might be sharing images from the early childhood settings. So that makes young children inherently vulnerable because they often have little to no voice in what is shared and with whom that's shared with. So what is left for them is a traceable digital footprint which is attached to them, but it's attached to them often without their consent. So I think this is something that many parents perhaps haven't thought about. And for me, I think this is certainly a conversation that we need to continue to have. Couldn't agree more.
And we've actually received a comment and a question that that's a really nice segway into that idea of other people creating digital profiles, whether that's a parent or an educator. And in one of the scenarios that we pose, we said that a child was annoyed because, you know, something had been shared about them and they discovered it and they weren't happy. And one of our participants online has said, what about a much more stressed or profound reaction than just being annoyed? Cathrine, developmentally, is that something that we should be expecting to see and how do we deal with that? Yeah, I think we often don't give credit to children about their emotions and if we're thinking from a rights perspective, children have the right to a voice, they have a right to choice. And I think from a very, very early stage, we should be asking for their consent. I mean, this is a teaching tool anyway, but it's very important to elevate children's voice in this perspective. So we may have a image of a child.
And if you'd like to share it, we need to ask them to share it. The challenge is they don't really understand who we are sharing it with, and the complexity is, even though we often present ourselves as the more competent other, as adults, we actually don't have any control over where that image goes. And so I think it's it's it's a very heated discussion because we're thinking about emotions, we're thinking about children's rights, we're thinking about notions of consent, that we're navigating an environment that we ourselves as adults, don't always understand the complexity of that. Thanks. And, you know, sharingting has become a whole movement, right? So parents sharing photos of children online.
I know I've done it myself as a parent, and it's through apps like Time Hop and so on, where you where you see what you posted on this day so many years ago that, you know, sometimes my children have said, why would you have posted that? So, you know, I'm sure many of us have fallen into into those sorts of traps. Jess, drawing from your perspective as both an educator and as a parent, what should adults be really mindful of when they're sharing photos about children or information about children? Yeah, well, I think we've talked a bit, haven't we, about the responsibility of adults to support children, to use technologies wisely and carefully and safely. And Cathrine's alerted us a couple of times to the rights of the child. And we know that that's a that's an international one from UNICEF. So really, I think there's a there's a couple of issues here to think about.
And it comes back to that concept of digital literacy proficiency. And we know that parents in the main, all of us included here, here on the screen that we've shared in different ways, images and other little stories, whatever that is, it's done in a positive mindset, isn't it? It's done in ways that are looking to be one, to celebrate children. It's a parent who's proud of their child's achievement, and so it's fine to put a picture of them in a swimming costume standing at the end of a race, isn't it? Or to think the photo of the child having a bubble bath is just adorable and everyone would love to see it. And we also consider the fact that parents will quite often talk about using social media to stay in touch with family and friends across the globe.
So as we live further and further away from each other, what are the ways that we can connect with each other and these why these, you know, social platforms are able are ways that we can share those images and enjoy and hopefully invite people to enjoy what it is that our children are doing. We know there's educators and teachers doing that as well, and Cathrine's alluded to that. And that, again, that's something positive, isn't it? They're wanting to share the child's achievements. And we think about,
you know, apps like Seesaw, so I'm at work and I can see what my child painted this morning. And there they are proudly holding that picture up. And I see their face as well.
And oh, okay. It is done with a positive mindset and that's really lovely. But it's a bit of a contradiction, isn't it? On one hand, we've talked about being worried about other people online, breaching the rights of our children, hurting them, doing things that they that are against the human rights. But on the other hand, potentially it's those adults that are close to them that could be ignoring those rights in a different, albeit less sinister way. But it is potentially a bit of a contradiction happening and there are consequences, aren't there? And Rebecca talked about that. She said what's visible to others positions us in certain ways.
It shapes our identities. So the way you want a child to be thought about when they're five, what about when they're 15, 25? Rebecca told us how long lasting these images are. So I think parents and educators and other adults could ask themselves a couple of questions. So I've got an image I want to share it. Why do I want to share it? And what are the best ways for me to share that image with the people that I want to see those images? How important is it for them to see it right now? While I'm having that event happening, how might this image or other information position the child now, but also into their future? It's a big decision that you're making and often you're making it on behalf of the child. And the other is if I still want to make that post, as Cathrine told us, we need to seek permission to do so.
So I think the rights of the child to privacy are really our responsibility to maintain and not just think it's other people that are potentially breaching those rights, but maybe it's also linked as well. Wow, thanks, Jess. I think my own example of time help might have triggered somebody because we have a question here from somebody who's worried that they've already over shared or feel a little bit fearful about knowing what the right thing to do is. How can you fix a digital footprint? Rebecca, can you help us here? I don't know if we can.
And but I guess, you know, I mean, I wanted to start responding to this by responding to what Jess just said around contradictions. Right. So we we think about children online and we are very concerned about safety. We tell them about, you
know, stranger danger, etc., online. And yet, you know, from a parent's perspective often or even from an educator perspective, we're sharing a lot of information and SeeSaw was brought up. We share a lot of emotion about the children as a form of celebration and suddenly the idea of privacy and security and danger becomes less prominent. Right. In the ways we as adults perceive it. But I do think that, you know, we shouldn't disregard the positives because, you know, we all use digital technologies to celebrate to work to for all these other reasons. And
I mean, any technology that we use would create a digital footprint. And I, you know, I say that so myself. I love doing that, right. I love being online, I love sharing things with my friends and the sort of things that we trade if we don't use it, for example, the inconveniences, we may not be able to talk to our, you know, families overseas, etcetera. And so kind of in response to your question around, people have already shared too much.
What should we do? I think it is important to actually acknowledge that there are some aspects that we cannot fully control or are individually responsible for and move to what's how best we can respect our children. And I think Cathrine talked about it, you know, thinking about their rights and consent and take an ongoing, I wanted to emphasise ongoing,because it is not around deleting all the photos at this moment, but it is taking this ongoing over the years asking your children or do you still, you know, how do you feel about all these baby photos of you being posted and a balanced approach to managing and minimising our digital footprints? I've been asked a lot about practical strategies and there are lots, like I think Jess mentioned a few, but there's also things like deleting apps where possible, not signing up to Google or Facebook accounts, understanding a little bit of the policy and the list really goes on. You can see that everywhere online, which is, you know, an irony of itself. But my advice really is to not do everything at once because that can be an extra burden to families that they don't need at the moment, but rather use different strategies all the time. And I think again, stressing that this is not a one time thing, but over time based on the kind of context that you're in. For example, if a child is not, why are they not have the chat with them around why and around that consent and be reflexive, the changing needs of your child as they find their way within the digital environment.
Thanks, Rebecca. Another question for you has come through, and this is around your comments around our choices, not really being our choices and how behaviour online is tracked and so on. What are the implications when a device is shared? So a child might be using a laptop that belongs to a workplace that an adult uses for work or might be a personal device in a home, for example? What happens when the device is shared? How does that change the experience for the user? So I'll talk about the adult user first right. Let's say an adult user shares, you know, and YouTube is actually a big one, right? They shared a YouTube account with children. And then and one of the things that's often being said is, well, you know, I feel like if I share my account, I'm able to see what my children are doing more.
I feel like that's more visibility. But at the same time, there's sort of these annoyances where I get frozen videos, recommended it to me all the time. And you know, I'm seeing the algorithm is wrong. So there's sort of this again, going back to this idea of personalisation that we talked about, right? Like we're so entrenched in kind of digital systems being personalised that suddenly when we're sharing these accounts and it's not personalised, we feel a little bit like they've taken away our right to be able to work within this digital environment. But you know, I think the opposite as well is then also, you know, is probably much more problematic in fact. If we were to share,
if we were to share kind of accounts with our children and if, you know, they've seen things that may not be relevant to them or they don't understand, I think that's really important. They've seen an image, you know, perhaps you were doing some research around, you know, the fires in Canberra from years ago. And that can be quite confronting for accessing it for the first time. When we share devices it does mean that, you know, there are responsibilities we need to have for whoever the user is, because you know, they're at different stages of their lives at different age groups to understand certain things, especially with very young children. And I think we need to have real considerations where thinking of how we are being, how we are sharing the information and how we want to share these controls.
Will children have the same autonomy as an adult when they're, say, using the YouTube account? What does that mean? I think setting some boundaries as adults and setting some rules around it and will be really helpful to guide the child in navigating that space. So there's some responsibilities for the competent adults, right, in the in the lives of digitally literate children in terms of making sure we know about those privacy policies and setting the parameters around. And there's so many great settings on different devices that we could be activating to help the pathways for our younger users. Dylan, you gave us some fairly hefty statistics around Internet use and access, and we know that digital technologies are firmly in the hands of many Australian children.
I wonder if you have some advice for us around how to manage digital in the context of everyday life. And you know, how families can make sure that digital use is something that is good and balanced and all those wonderful things that I know that you're dying to talk to us about. Thanks, Lisa. Yeah. So, you know, historically,
the the message and the approach has been to keep track of how many minutes your child spending online and maybe restrict that or limit that to make sure it's not too much time online. Well, that's one thing we can keep in mind, but it might not be the most important thing for families to keep in mind. So really, at the heart of this for the family is how is the family functioning and how is children's digital technology use influencing the child's functioning and how the family functions? And if there's not significant issues there with the child, they sleep fine, their behaviour is fine, they eat fine and so on, and they get enough time outdoors and playing, they socialise well then engaging with some digital technology might not be a big problem for the family. In the same way, if there's not issues, challenges with getting children to stop using digital technology or issues with interactions in the household from children's use of digital technology. Again, so if the family is functioning okay, then things might be okay and there might not be too much for parents to worry about. Now, I mentioned that we could keep track of how much time children are spending online, but maybe some more important things are, you know, how much time do we spend with our child when our child's online? What types of things are they doing? And can we do some of those things together with them? And in doing so, are they doing the types of activities we'd like them to be doing? So are they creating, are they, you know, being innovative? Are they communicating with friends or family or other in positive ways? Are they getting to express themselves to design? And in all these types of things are positive ways.
And so if we're involved with our children's digital lives, then we can help to manage that because we're part of it. I think that's a really powerful message, we're part of it, and as as the adults in the lives of children, we have responsibilities that come with that. I'm reminded of some interviews I did a little while ago we were talking with families around digital practices in the home and some of the the advantages, but also some of the tensions that they were experiencing. And one family talked to me at length about how they've just tried to bend the digital and they put the iPad on top of the fridge.
And, you know, it was used as a bit of a reward or a punishment to be able to bring the iPad off the top of the fridge or to be able to put it up there and whatever. And I said to them, But do you put the swing set on top of the fridge? You know, is that used as a behaviour management strategy as well? And they looked at me thinking I was a little bit unusual at that time. And I said, well, why is it that we use the digital for behaviour management? Is it because we don't fully understand it ourselves? Is it a phenomena that perhaps our children understand but we're still catching up with? You know, I guess the tension that family's feeling is certainly represented in the comments that we've had is that digital is also a new basic.
It's something that children just need to know how to navigate. So, you know, where we're in uncomfortable terrain as adults. We're down to our last few minutes, team. Should we do a whip around and any final thoughts? Jess, let's start with you. You kicked us off at the beginning of the panel. Thank you very much, Lisa.
I'm really I would really like to build on what Dylan just said. I think what he's what he's reminded us is really important. The opportunity to use technology within the family and the family being supportive, but also doing creative things, using quality experiences. And that's wonderful time to go with that. So as a literacy person, I would add to that as well. While you're there with that child, think about the sorts of ways that you were showing them what someone who is digitally literate does.
So in the education field, we call this a think aloud, and it's where we talk about and put words to what is going on in our heads. And so when we see something that's a bit unusual online, we might say, 'Ooh, I wonder what's going on there? This information doesn't look quite right. Let me investigate further.' And this is a way that we're modelling how those internal processes are happening within a proficient reader's head or proficient users head and how you can teach that ways of ways of thinking, ways of wondering, but also teaching that technical language. Let me explore further. Let me do another search. So think about those ways that you can use language within those great interactions Dylan just recommended so that children can really develop their own languages, their own language that allows them to express their thoughts and their understandings when it is they need to talk about it. Thanks, Jess.
Cathrine. Yeah, I think there is still there's a lot of concerns regarding the embedding of technology in that early childhood space. And and a lot of those concerns, I think, are motivated by the use or misuse of data as well as the developmental impact that technology can have on young children. We've certainly touched on a lot of those or some of those this afternoon, but we also need to recognise that a lack of access also places children at risk.
So the reality is children are living in a technological world, so we need to focus more on what a quality experience looks like and importantly what equity and access looks like. And we need to recognise that living in a world or a digital world are intimately connected and they're connected for both children and they're connected for adults. Thanks, Cathrine.
Rebecca, some final thoughts? Um, well, the, the, you know, the panel has been extremely interesting because the ideas have been so diverse. But one of the things, you know, that I was thinking, as you know, everyone's talking is how much we still need to learn around kind of what it means to be digitally literate and not just from a child's perspective, you know, but as an adult and as the person responsible for, you know, being part of the children's kind of lives, to be able to help them to be digitally literate. And I keep thinking about this idea, you know, that the future aspect that Cathrine talked about. And, you know, how we have digital footprints and we expect children to have a sense of the future and time.
But really they can't at such a young age. But how then parents help them to understand that? And, you know, I wonder whether maybe perhaps we need a digital literacy for adults, you know, seminar first, as part of kind of helping children, then to be become digital literate citizens. So yeah, that's it's been it's been absolutely wonderful.
Thanks, Lisa. Thank you, Rebecca. Dylan, some final thoughts? Well, just to kind of carry on from Rebecca, we're helping children become digitally literate and we need to be digitally literate at the same time while we're doing that. We're helping them ask questions.
And so we need to be thinking about asking the questions ourselves, whether we're looking at information online. We're not sure if it's correct or not, whether the children are playing with apps and we're not sure how kind of developmentally appropriate is, is how how good is it for my child? Is it a quality app or they're connecting with people online and they might need to be asking questions about that. So they might be going to who, what, why, how questions so that they can start to take a step back, not take things at face value and think a little bit deeper about the way they're engaging online. A big thank you to Jessica, Cathrine, Rebecca and Dylan. What a tremendous conversation we've been able to have this afternoon. And I think, you know, when we talk about digital literacy and anything to do with the digital really, there's challenges.
There's dilemmas that we face, which came through the scenarios that our families have shared with us. But there's also really great opportunities, and I think we need to hold on to those. And I guess for the many people who are online and perhaps will listen to this recording later, thank you for coming along. It's been so wonderful to see some of our early childhood colleagues in services online, fellow researchers who are in this space, we hope that you might have an interdisciplinary perspective that you might like to bring to us and add to the debate and continue the conversation. And to the many families, some of whom are quite known to us here at Early Start. Thank you for making the time to come on and take up Jessica's invitation and come and see us in the children's technology play space. We'd really love to work with
you and your children and to put us on a on a great pathway for a digitally literate future. So this event has been recorded so everyone who registered for the event will receive a link to the recording via email after the session. And thank you for coming along. It's been great conversations
and we look forward to them continuing.