ChildLinks Issue 3: Children and the Digital World

Barnardos. (2018). Issue 3: Children and the Digital World.
This issue of ChildLinks considers the digital environment and the impact it has on childhood and on family life. Digital technology is increasingly present in our daily experiences from communication to sharing photos, managing finances, booking holidays, and accessing entertainment and education. From birth, babies are now ‘digital natives’, continually exposed to media-rich, digital environments and actively engaged in the use of technology as part of everyday life. This prevalence of technology brings with it both extensive opportunity and areas of potential concern as the impact of digital technology on the cognitive, social and emotional development of children is still largely unknown. In the first article in this issue, Edel Quinn from the Children’s Rights Alliance explores a child rights framework as a mechanism to enhance safety and privacy online through policies and supports, and the importance of involving children in this process. Parents too are impacted by the increased use of technology in family life and need constructive ways they can support their children, whatever their age. Cliona Curley, Programme Director of CyberSafe Ireland, highlights the risks children face online such as cyberbullying, loss of privacy, potential abuse of personal data, exposure to harmful content and grooming, and what parents can do to keep their children safe. Julia Buchanan of Barnardo’s Northern Ireland then gives information about a recent research project which aimed to gain an understanding of parents’ and infants’ use of digital technology in everyday home life and how this may impact on parent-infant interactions, identifying the areas in which parents of infants could benefit from additional support. Finally, Mira Dobutowitsch of Maynooth University outlines a study that examined the types of screen time children are engaging with, parental attitudes and concerns, perceived challenges, and the strategies that parents adopt to navigate decision-making around screen time. Elsewhere in this issue, Child & Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist Colman Noctor explores the relationship between technology, expectation, desire and vulnerability. He proposes a need to develop a media and emotional literacy to enable us to hold onto our own value systems and not have those dictated to by companies who want to sell us things and keep us distracted. Also in this issue, Sandra O’Neill from the Institute of Education, Dublin City University explores the potential use of technology in early learning and care, outlining the challenges including the appropriate and intentional selection, use, integration and evaluation of any technology. She also considers how, when it is used intentionally, technology can enhance children’s interests and enable discovery, discussion and motivation to learn. In another article, Chloe Beatty and Suzanne Egan from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick consider the impact of screen engagement on children’s vocabulary development and highlight the importance of considering the impact of different aspects of screen use on a child’s development. Currently in Ireland, work is underway on a new Online Safety Act to improve online safety, setting a clear expectation for service providers to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the users of their service. This should go some way to ensure that children can be better protected online.