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Scoping Exercise in relation to UNICEF Research on Children and ICT

Conducted on behalf of: UNICEF

Commenced: December 2012

Project context

Traditionally, UNICEF programs have been centred on the areas of: health and nutrition, education, child protection, water and sanitation, and HIV prevention. In recent years, with the global rise of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and the acknowledgement of the profound impact these technologies have on children, different parts of the organisation have chosen to prioritise different aspects of ICT in relation to children. This work has included research on: usage and child safety, the promotion of digital citizenship, awareness-raising among children, development through ICT and more.

Together with those in UNICEF’s New York Headquarters, the Innocenti Office of Research in Florence has realised the need to make children’s rights the focus of the research and debate on children’s usage of ICT. They have also decided to expand the current focus on safety and risks to include rights to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom to seek information and so on. However, the current approach to research on ICT and children is somewhat fragmented and, unfortunately, there is no systematic measurement of the impact UNICEF research is making, nor it is clear how this impact shapes UNICEF policy and programme priorities across different sectors.

In order to establish future research on children and ICT, it is necessary to take stock of the current developments in the field and in UNICEF, and to identify areas where UNICEF can make biggest contributions given its mandate, field presence and comparative advantage.

Objectives of the project

The project seeks: firstly, to determine the potential, scope, possibilities and the direction of UNICEF’s program of research regarding children and ICT; and secondly to establish if such research is already underway, and if it might be more appropriate for UNICEF to find a more supportive or advisory role, or one that aims to exploit and capitalize on the available research in the interests of children.

The central question is whether UNICEF can make a unique contribution to this field of research and, if so, how this contribution might be maximised.

Research team

Dr Sonia Livingstone is Professor of Social Psychology in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE.

Dr Monica Bulger has a PhD in Cognitive Science and Technology and Society.