Up until now, the way I have talked (typed) about digital technology has been from the perspective of a twenty-something-year-old educator, and the views I have mostly considered are those of parents and my peers. However, I realized that for a blog that’s dedicated to a class called Children & Technology, there is one point-of-view I have not yet covered in detail: the children’s.
What do children think about digital technology? How do children see digital technology as integrating with other aspects of their lives? I believe there is a misconception that because children are digital natives, they do not think twice about the way they use digital technology in their everyday lives. Yet they do!
A study showed that when children ages twelve and under were asked to draw a picture of how they would adapt digital technology, they came up with many interesting answers. One child wanted to be able to touch, feel, and move things on a screen; another child wished for a platform that could search and provide results for things not by using text, but drawings. Many themes and concepts included virtual realities and simulations, and human-like robots and virtual companions. The researchers noted that children see digital technology as an extension of themselves, not as an add-on in the way I think of it.
In 2015, BBC Newsround sought out comments from children and young teens online regarding whether or not they thought [digital] technology helped them learn better. Surprisingly, there was a range of responses across the board, such as technology can be a distraction and encourages laziness and cheating; technology is good because it’ll be the way of the future, and technology can help improve concentration and makes knowledge more accessible. The Hechinger Report got similar responses when they conducted interviews with older children from middle-class rural backgrounds–in their opinion, while digital technology can be more fun and interactive to learn with, it can also lead to more distractions and temptations.
But what about children’s perceptions of cyber-safety?
During a pilot-study project, researchers at the Learning Science Institute Australia found that 73% of the young children interviewed said that they would tell their names and addresses to someone they knew online (i.e., a player in a game). In my experience, children consider a stranger to be a random person on the street that they have never met. However, children feel a sense of familiarity with the people they’re interacting with in their virtual worlds.
As children explore and use new technologies and apps, parents and educators should be checking in and initiating dialogues to understand how children are thinking about digital technology. Every child is unique, and every child will have their own individual opinions and needs when it comes to using digital technology.