Schools and parents need to stop listening to internet myths to help children get the best out of technology.
In a report launched today (Thursday) the influential think tank Demos calls on schools to get past fears about children’s internet use and harness its learning potential. The report Their Space: Education for a digital generation draws on research showing that a generation of children have made online activity a part of everyday life, with parents and schools still far behind.
The report argues that children are developing a sophisticated understanding of new technologies outside of formal schooling, gaining creative and entrepreneurial skills demanded by the global knowledge economy. Schools are failing to develop these skills, with many attempting to limit children’s online activity to ICT ‘ghettos’ while banning the use of social networking sites like MySpace and Youtube.
The research, based on nine months of interviews, focus groups and recording children’s online activity, found that:
- A majority of children use new media tools to make their lives easier and strengthen existing friendship networks
- Almost all children involved in creative production – e.g. uploading/editing photos and building websites
- A smaller group of ‘digital pioneers’ are engaged in more groundbreaking activities
- Children are well aware of potential risks, with many able to self regulate - contrary to popular assumptions about safety
- Many children have their own ‘hierarchy of digital activity’ and are much more conscious of the relative values of online activity than their parents and teachers
Head of the Demos families programme, Hannah Green said:
“We are witnessing the rise of a generation of children who can’t remember life before the internet and mobile phones. Negative myths are clouding the public debate around technology and children, and we rarely listen to what children themselves have to say, They know more than we think about what benefits them and what doesn’t. It’s time for schools to harness their knowledge and enthusiasm and start helping children who are less confident to contribute to a thriving digital culture.”
The report makes a number of proposals on how formal education can adapt to the growing dominance of online culture in children’s lives:
- The Children’s Commissioner should convene a working group of children to advise on children’s use of technology
- The development of a national strategy, led by schools in combating the ‘digital divide’, with schools responsible for delivering access to hardware such as a laptop, tablet or mobile device for every child
- Measures should be taken to tackle a divide in knowledge, with schools working with parents to develop the skills to help all children interact with technology confidently and safely
- Children should be given the opportunity to build up a ‘creative portfolio’ alongside traditional forms of assessment, access to which would be determined by the children themselves
Notes for Editors
- TheirSpace: Education for a digital generation by Hannah Green and Celia Hannon will be launched on Thursday at the Bett 2007 educational technology show. Preview PDF copies are available on request
- Hannah Green is head of the Demos families programme, and Celia Hannon is a researcher at Demos
- The research and report are supported by the National College for Schools Leadership
- The research took place between April and December 2006 and included:
- Seminars with senior policy makers, academics head teachers and commentators
- Expert interviews
- Six months of interviews and group discussion with children around the UK
- Diaries kept by children recording new media consumption – what they used, what they used it for, and how often
- Poll of 600 parents on their views and understanding of children’s digital technology use
Demos is the think tank for everyday democracy, the idea that all people should have greater influence over factors affect them and their communities.
Media enquiries: Mark Fuller, Head of Press and Public Affairs
+44 (0)20 7367 6325 or +44 (0)7952 286223