As the year draws to a close, we take a look back at our recent posts and ahead to what’s new for 2019. [Header image credit: C. Sunter, CC BY-ND 2.0.jpg]

Children’s privacy and data online 

Post-GDPR and post-Cambridge Analytica, privacy remained a major topic for discussion, from children’s data that we willingly post on social media when ‘sharenting’, to that which is captured as we move through security spaces such as airports. We also launched our research on how children themselves understand privacy online, how this impacts on their capacity to give informed consent, and how different contexts present new challenges. This research runs counter to the idea that children don’t care about privacy or that the only solution is to improve their digital literacy.

Digital literacy: emotional, critical and familial

Building on such debates, we also questioned the notion that where regulation falls short in protecting children’s rights online, digital literacy offers a silver-bullet solution. We highlighted the concerns that even IT professionals have about the literacy skills that their children might be developing, suggesting that what is also needed is better emotional literacy. With a recent UK government report showing that only 2% of children can identify fake news, we summarised 10 key readings on how to cultivate a critical approach to the media, including amongst policy-makers, for example how to have a critical understanding of news reports on teen ‘crazes’ like the Blue Whale game. We also looked at how improving parents’ video game literacy can help them to guide children into getting more from such games and strengthen relationships. But we have also discussed how gender, class and age may intersect to affect parents’ confidence in using digital media.

Wellbeing: risk and opportunities

Bullying has been high on the agenda – we have presented research examining what social media companies are actually doing about the problem, and asked whether ‘cyberbullying’ is the most useful term to use to describe online harm. We also considered the risks of online bullying and grooming faced by children in Nigeria and called for the government to improve policy and legislation. We asked whether excessive social media use adversely affects teens’ wellbeing in Sweden, and presented findings from a major US survey which discovered a diverse range of experiences, including teens who found social media use positively supported their mental health. We argued that media coverage of certain apps and games has harmfully exaggerated the risks. We have considered how media can be used to improve the lives and social engagement of forced migrants settling in Europe from Arabic countries, and highlighted the benefits of including media within the new sex and relationships education provision in England.

How are families negotiating such issues?

We have taken an in-depth look at how family dynamics impact on all of these issues around children’s media use, from how children living in new family formations such as foster and stepfamilies, negotiate different rules, to research on how attitudes of parents and parents’ own media use in the home impacts significantly on children’s use of digital tech. We have also highlighted the importance of learning within the home as a way of strengthening digital literacy and provided key pointers for parents. We argued that instead of banning kids from using screen-based devices, parents should consider how their own behaviour sets an example for media use and how they can help children self-regulate. Indeed a report by Common Sense Media suggests more positively that digital devices can actually help improve relations and reduce tensions between parents and children.

Looking ahead for 2019

This blog will continue to share insights both from our own research, and from guest posters around the world. Our biggest news is that our book, Parenting for a digital future: how hopes and fears about technology shape our children’s lives, is due to be published next year. Watch this space for updates.

With our Parenting for a Digital Future project now winding down the team has moved on to new projects and horizons. Sonia continues to lead the Global Kids Online and Children’s Data and Privacy Online projects, and is now also co-directing The Nurture Network. She has recently concluded her tenure as chair of the LSE’s Truth, Trust and Technology Commission, and her work with the Council of Europe to create a set of recommendations to fulfill the rights of the child in the digital environment.

Alicia recently concluded a research report for the ICT Coalition for Children Online, which explored how industry stakeholders and young people, parents and educators think about the present and future of technology. We will share the final report in the new year. After concluding that research she took up a newly created role at Google/YouTube as the Public Policy Lead for Children and Families where she is working to support child safety, child rights, and to create positive online experiences and resources for kids and their caregivers. Alicia will continue to pop up as a blog contributor from time to time, especially as we share sneak peeks from our Parenting for a Digital Future book and from our research on the Makerspaces in the Early Years (MakEY) project as publication dates near. She will no longer edit posts.

You can keep up to date with our research and new project updates by subscribing to the blog, and by following Sonia and Alicia on Twitter.

Throughout the Parenting for a Digital Future project we have been assisted by a group of talented postgraduate students who assisted with data gathering and analysis, preparing publications and have helped us create the essential resource for up-to-date research on children and media we hope this blog has become. Kate Gilchrist remains our blog editor, while she works on her PhD in Media and Communications at the LSE. Former LSE PhD students and research assistants César Jiménez-Martínez and Rafal Zaborowski have moved on to new academic appointments, as has Paige Mustain, a recently graduated PhD student from the Oxford Internet Institute who has helped us comb through the morass of references in our book. Jennifer Pavlick brings her editorial and journalistic skills, honed as our blog editor, to a variety of new projects in and outside academia and Svenja Ottovordemgentschenfelde is now working as a senior design researcher in the digital technology practice at Deloitte.

We are deeply grateful to them all, and to you our readers, for helping make this project and blog such enriching experiences. We look forward to sharing more in 2019.

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.