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Olaf Kapella

Eva-Maria Schmidt

Susanne Vogl

May 18th, 2022

Integration of digital technologies in families with children aged 5-10 years

0 comments | 5 shares

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Olaf Kapella

Eva-Maria Schmidt

Susanne Vogl

May 18th, 2022

Integration of digital technologies in families with children aged 5-10 years

0 comments | 5 shares

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Most European children today are living in media-rich households with access to a variety of different devices. Yet, there is a great variance in how families use technologies and integrate them within their everyday lives and routines. In this blog, Olaf Kapella, Eva Maria Schmidt, and Susanne Vogl discuss their research with families with young children (aged 5-10 years) from Austria, Estonia, Norway and Romania, exploring how technological transformations are affecting family life across Europe.

How do digital technologies contribute to ‘doing family’?

This study uses the idea of ‘doing family’ to provide a lens to examine how family is produced and exhibited through common practices. Digital technologies contribute to ‘doing family’ through creating and maintaining a sense of ‘we-ness’ and shared identity within the family. This is seen through the roles that different family members take, what they use digital technologies for, and how they mediate or do not mediate their use. As with many other aspects of social development, parents frequently act as role models for their children’s digital technology use. Additionally, in contrast to the offline world, children, as digital natives, are increasingly responsible for teaching and guiding their elders. This shift recognises that different generations have something to contribute to creating a resilient family unit.

In the popular discourse, it is common to hear that digital technologies are reducing the quality and quantity of family time and degrading our ability to function in the social world. In fact, this research discusses how digital technologies play a role in maintaining family wellbeing through different forms of care: caring about, caring for, care-giving, care-receiving, and caring with. For example, staying in touch with family members during lockdowns by video call or message is a form of care, sitting next to your child whilst they play a game on a tablet is a form of care.

How are parents attempting to mediate their children’s use of digital technologies?

Understanding how to parent ‘good enough’ in the digital era is tricky since parents cannot draw on their own childhood experiences in the same way that they would do with other areas of parenting. Parents are having to improvise their way through without necessarily having the support or digital competences themselves to feel confident in their approaches.

Parents across Europe are feeling the pressure of having to mediate their children’s digital technology use, this is partly prompted by discussions of screentime addiction etc which are prominent in the media discourse. Mediating strategies are important for ensuring that children feel supported and guided but too strict rules or lack of access can also make them more vulnerable. Digital technologies are not the bad guy; our research shows that developing strong digital competences can also reduce vulnerabilities.

What are the four main recommendations?

  1. Build and improve children’s digital competences from an early age onward to ensure their well-being and to avoid increasing and creating (new) vulnerabilities of children.
  2. Promote digital technologies as one way to support ‘doing family’ in everyday family life.
  3. Support all children in having access to the digital world to ensure children’s rights.
  4. Research young children through participatory and multiple-perspective approaches.

Read the full paper for more detail on these recommendations and the research findings here.


This text was originally published on the DigiGen blog and has been re-posted with permission.

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

Featured image: photo by Liliana Drew on Pexels

About the author

Olaf Kapella

Dr. Olaf Kapella is a Senior Research Fellow and research coordinator in the Austrian Institute for Family Studies at the University of Vienna. In addition to families and digital technologies, his main research areas include family policies, violence in the family, sexual education and child welfare. He also works as a counsellor at a family counselling centre focusing on parental support, children and young people and sexuality.

Eva-Maria Schmidt

Eva-Maria Schmidt works as a sociologist and anthropologist at the Austrian Institute for Family Studies and the Department of Sociology, University of Vienna. She is particularly experienced in qualitative multi-perspective approaches on the transition to parenthood. Her research focuses on analyzing parents’ arrangements of combining paid work and family work and constructions of gendered parental responsibilities. Eva-Maria is a member and country expert in the International Leave Policies & Research Network. Her work in the DigiGen project comprises conducting and analyzing the qualitative data.

Susanne Vogl

Susanne Vogl is a Full Professor of Sociology and quantitative and qualitative social science research methods at the University of Stuttgart. She has previously held appointments at the Department of Sociology and the Department of Education at the University of Vienna. She is an expert in social science research methodology with extensive experience with a wide range methods of data collection and analysis. She has worked extensively on mode and age effect in interviews with children. The goal of her research is to generally advance the field of research methodology and more specifically create awareness for peculiarities of target groups and methods.

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