[Header image credit: E. Peacock, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Minimising risks and maximising opportunities

A major focus in 2018 has been the potential risks that children may face online, and how children and young people, supported by their parents and educators, take steps to minimise these. We have reported on the rise in the number of children being exposed to online hate speech in Italy shown in the latest findings from the EU Kids Online Survey. We have responded to headlines about dodgy content appearing on YouTube, examined arguments for and against Facebook’s Messenger Kids and games with social media components, and asked whether self-regulation by companies is adequate – but we have also asked whether changes to the law heralded by the European General Data Protection Regulation are up to scratch.

Safer Internet Day saw the release of the first of our reports on the digital home, which explored the important role parents play in both addressing the risks children face and enabling opportunities. Download the full report here. We have suggested what digital platforms could do to improve their interfaces and policies and help parents to cope with the challenges they present, and outlined how vital it is to understand how children are using and are impacted by digital media.

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Leading in learning: parents’ role in media use

The importance of parents in facilitating the potential of digital media for children’s learning has also been a key theme. We have questioned:

  • How Makerspaces – hands-on spaces where adults and children learn through making things – enable children to develop digital, media or scientific literacy – and asked how can parents support them in the process?
  • How the development of children’s STEM skills can be boosted by use of digital media resources, or by parents using apps together with their children?
  • Whether there is an impact of gender on how mothers and fathers differently support their children’s learning and internet use?

Building better connections

Finally we have been considering the potential of digital media in developing children’s social skills and facilitating interaction. Robots have been found to help children with disabilities develop their communication skills in new ways. Another study has shown how mobile phones are connecting migrant children in China and helping them to maintain relationships with distant family and friends. Virtual reality games have also been shown to encourage children’s collaborative engagement and more creative interactions – yet the long-term health risks are still unknown.

Looking ahead we have plenty of posts lined up, but we are always keen to receive new contributions. Please take a look at our guidelines for guest contributors here.

Watch out for our next report from the Preparing for a Digital Future project, which will examine parental attitudes and practices regarding their children’s digital privacy, and will be released after Easter.

This post gives the views of the authors and does not represent the position of the LSE Parenting for a Digital Future blog, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.