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New Centre to protect children growing up in the digital age

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will be leading an international research that will document what life is like when born into the digital age.

As reported, Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan has announced AU$ 34.9 million for the establishment of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child.

This will be based at the University.

Federal Member for Brisbane Trevor Evans said the outcomes of the Centre would inform public policy across a diverse range of areas: privacy, security and safety to health, education and families’ policy.

Who are involved?

Researchers from Australian universities collaborating with the University in the new Centre include Curtin University, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University, University of Queensland and University of Wollongong.

In total, the Centre has 33 national and international academic and industry partners. Together they will provide the Centre with an additional AU$ 32.2 million in cash and in-kind support.

It would bring together academics from Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States, and South Korea.

Their research spans diverse disciplines such as education, health, computer science, engineering, psychology, and digital technologies to media and communication.

In addition, the research will involve government and non-government agencies, local and overseas industry, policy-makers, philanthropic groups, as well as children and their parents.

Researchers will work with start-ups and technology providers to test prototypes and gather feedback from children at research hubs.

Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child

The Centre would focus on children from birth to eight years of age with a detailed seven-year research program, including a longitudinal family cohort study with 3000 families.

A child’s digital footprint begins even before birth, through data generated by health and educational records.

Add to that social media and the many young children’s toys connected to the internet, with activities and preferences tracked by commercial entities.

The vision is to ensure children growing up in the digital age are healthy, educated and connected.

It will provide evidence-based research around the risks as well as the many opportunities and innovations provided by digital technologies that can benefit children and their futures.

There are conflicting national guidelines and advice about many digital technology issues and the Centre aims to provide authoritative information to guide families, educators, governments and other authorities.

The three key research areas the Centre will focus on are:

  1. Health

This involves balancing risks of using digital technology against benefits, such as access to knowledge, social interaction, sleep and physical activity, relaxation and entertainment.

  1. Education

This involves using digital technologies to optimise learning and develop engaging and thought-provoking new technologies.

  1. Connectedness

This involves balancing social and knowledge connections in the digital world against risks of surveillance, infringements of privacy and children’s rights.

The Centre is tasked with several activities. These are:

  1. Deliver and disseminate evidence-based research to optimise children’s use of digital technology
  2. Provide recommendations for policy-makers and curriculum development to enable child-directed digital learning, participation and enjoyment
  3. Guidelines and resources for parents, educators and communities about safe and effective digital practices
  4. Technological innovations that support children’s digital engagement

Additionally, the Centre will provide professional development programs for those working with children and build research capacity with high-quality graduates and early career researchers.

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