Mother daughter computer

Preparing for a Digital Future

We investigate how children and young people, along with their parents, carers, mentors and educators imagine and prepare for their personal and work futures in a digital age

Researchers in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science are conducting a three-year research project on Preparing for a Digital Future, supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation from 2014-2017. The research team, led by Professor Sonia Livingstone working with Dr Julian Sefton-Green and Dr Alicia Blum-Ross, is undertaking a series of qualitative case studies to investigate how children and young people, along with their parents, carers, mentors and educators imagine and prepare for their personal and work futures in a digital age.

This research builds on the findings from The Class, led by Professor Livingstone and Dr Sefton-Green and funded by the MacArthur Foundation from 2011-2014, an ethnographic study that examined the emerging mix of on- and offline experiences in teenagers’ daily learning lives. This research was published as part of a new book series on ‘Connected youth and digital futures’ from NYU Press as The Class: Living and Learning in a Digital Age in 2016 (summaries of some of the findings can be found here).

NOTE: we regularly update our research blog with observations from our research, publications, and contributions from guest bloggers working in research and advocacy roles in a variety of fields relating to children, families and digital media. 


Preparing for a Digital Future has two interlinked strands:

Parenting for a digital future

  • How do parents and carers approach the task of bringing up their children in the digital age?
  • What is their vision of their children’s future and that of the wider society?
  • What risks or opportunities do they see opening up for them and their children?
  • How then do they conceive of being a ‘good parent’ and how do they evaluate the learning and socialisation resources available to their children?
  • And how do their children view and respond to their parents’ hopes, fears and values regarding digital media?

From the days of early films and comics to today’s social networks, tablets and multiplayer online games, technology has always entered into the discourses of parenting, raising new hopes and fears and necessitating shifts in parenting practices. Yet the pace of recent advances in digital media – not to mention talk about smart homes, geo-location apps, driverless cars and the internet of things – leaves many parents and carers increasingly anxious about what these changes will mean for their children, now and in the future. Parents are left unsupported by the polarised public debate about the detrimental effects of ‘screen time’ on the one hand, and the visions of digital media as offering radically-new pathways to academic achievement, or self-expression on the other. To aid parents and policy-makers in assessing the available evidence, we have written a policy brief and a series of blog posts on the current state of research on ‘screen time’ including case studies from our own research.

To understand parental conceptions of the ‘digital future,’ we invite participants to reflect on imagery of the future as well as the changing nature of childhood since their own youth. Parenting discourses often foreground notions of ‘best practice’ or ‘ideal pathways’ or, more prosaically, what ‘most people do’. But in reality, we are finding that parents and carers are highly diverse, so we are exploring the different economic, religious, social and cultural contexts in which parents negotiate these choices and also highlight the diversity in parents’ orientations to the digital future.

See our blog for updates.

Preparing for creative labour

  • What are the barriers and enablers to young people’s transition from participation in semi-formal creative learning organisations to paid work in the cultural and creative industries?
  • How can young people learn about and take advantage of progressions between and across different forms of social structure, qualifications infrastructure and institution to be able to develop organised careers in an increasingly-precarious economic landscape?
  • How and in what ways do the generic properties of 'digital creativity' create different kinds of opportunity for employment and movement across traditional work roles?
  • What notions of learning identity and continuous ‘professional’ development support or hinder entry into work?

We will engage both with young ‘filmmakers’, to reflect with those who have started careers about the influences that shaped them, and with educators and mentors from non-formal learning organisations in the UK and other English-speaking countries to consider the supports they put in place to help their young people explore these career trajectories. Working directly with learning organisations, including the British Film Institute’s Film Academy, this research will provide recommendations how to support young people effectively, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to use their newly-developed skills and experiences as they begin to enter the ‘world of work’; and to map the complex mix of pathways, life-skills, barriers and opportunities that young people have to navigate and learn as they move from leisure interests to paid employment.

Related Research

CLRN’s agenda for research and design

Digital Media and Learning Research Hub

LSE’s Media Policy Project

EU Kids Online

Makerspaces in the Early Years (MakEY)

The Digital Literacy and Multimodal Pracices of Young Children (DigiLitEY)


Principal Investigator: Professor Sonia Livingstone

Principal Research Fellow: Dr Julian Sefton-Green

Research Officer: Dr Alicia Blum-Ross


This research is part of the Connected Learning Research Network (CLRN), funded by the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiative, which examines how children and young people connect their learning experiences in school, home, with peers and in interest-driven activities. CLRN and the Connected Learning Alliance advocate for parents, schools and government to support learning that reflects and is embedded in children and young people’s social worlds and interests, and helps create equal educational, economic and political opportunity.



Book Series Launch: Connected Youth and Digital Futures

On 22 June 2016, the Department of Media and Communications hosted an event to launch a new book series, Connected Youth and Digital Futures with New York University Press. The first two volumes in the series are By any Media Necessary: The new youth activism by Henry Jenkins and his collaborators and The Class: Living and learning in the digital age by Sonia Livingstone and Julian Sefton-Green.

Establishing a Research Agenda for the Digital Literacy Practices of Young Children

This paper authored by Julian Sefton-Green and other researchers outlines the context and research questions behind a Europe-wide project investigating young children, digital technologies and changing literacies.


The last mile: Remaking the pathways to opportunity

Sonia Livingstone and Julian Sefton-Green took part in this webinar, where they discussed the changes experienced by the world of work and the emergent challenges facing young people as they seek out social, economic, and civic opportunities. Click here for Storify. 

Younger children online: How are families responding?

In this interview for the CEOP National Crime Agency, Sonia Livingstone talks about her research into young children online and how their families are responding to the challenges of parenting in the digital age. 

The Motherland Podcast: Kids & Technology

In this podcast, Sonia Livingstone and Bethany Koby, co-founder of Technology Will Save Us, discussed the difference between passive and positive screen-time, online safety, and how to make tech a force for good in your home.

Victoria Derbyshire programme

Alicia Blum-Ross appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC2 (segment starts at 24:11) to talk not only about parents but also young people sharing results online. She joined two young people, one of whom had published a video of her opening her A-level results on her YouTube channel last year (and has now gotten 50,000 views), and another who had shared his results on social media that day. 

The Today Programme

On this edition of the Today Programme on Radio4, Alicia Blum-Ross discussed ‘sharenting’ and whether parents should share their child’s A-level results online (last 5 minutes of broadcast). 

Cyber safety: How protected are your children online?

Sonia Livingstone was featured in this article in the Telegraph in which journalist Zoe Brennan worried about the heavy reliance she and her children have developed on ‘screen time’ during the school holidays. Sonia provided evidence from our research that
British parents have a high rate of early adoption of devices, but less knowledge of what kids actually do online.

Parenting in the digital age: How parents address equity through discourses, practices and imaginaries

Panel co-organised by Alicia Blum-Ross at the Digital Media and Learning Conference, June 2015

This panel focussed specifically on the role of parents and guardians, contributing to a relatively small body of academic work on the ways in which families’ support for young people helps bridge opportunity gaps. The discussants explored the ways in which parents and children imagine and negotiate the opportunities and potential risks embedded in digital media practices.

Managing your child’s digital footprint

Panel discussion with Alicia Blum-Ross at BritMums Live blogging conference, June 2015

Alicia Blum-Ross participated in this discussion, focussed on exploring the digital legacy we are creating for our children. It included how data is being is and can be used, as well as examined the fine line between sharing publicly and protecting privacy.

Beyond the ivory tower: how to bridge digital media and learning research with action & design projects

Two webinars facilitated by Alicia Blum-Ross, May 2015 [videos here and here]

In these webinars, Alicia Blum-Ross and scholars from the Digital Media and Learning community explored the practicalities of initiating and implementing participatory and community-based research. They discussed both the benefits and the challenges that working in collaboration with organizations and individuals brings to academic research.

How the ordinary experiences of young people are being affected by networked technologies

Cross-posted article for LSE Connect on the LSE's British Politics and Policy blog

Digital technology advances are opening up new ways to communicate, with the potential to enhance student–teacher relationships. Sonia Livingstone followed a class of London teenagers for a year to find out more about how they are, or in some cases are not, connecting online.

Developing social media literacy

NetworkEDGE seminar at the LSE by Sonia Livingstone, February 2015.

Drawing on cross-national interviews and informed by the tradition of research on media literacy, Sonia Livingstone discussed the idea of social media literacy. The empirical material revealed a social developmental pathway by which children learn to interpret and engage with the technological and textual affordances and social dimensions of SNSs in determining what is risky and why. In addition, their changing orientation to social networking online (and offline) appears to be shaped by their changing peer and parental relations, and has implications for their perceptions of risk of harm.

Children’s rights in the digital age

Public lecture at the LSE by Sonia Livingstone, February 2015.

Are children’s rights enhanced or undermined by access to the internet? Charters and manifestos for the digital age are proliferating, but where do children fit in? Sonia Livingstone addressed this and other concerns in this public lecture at the LSE.

Gearty grilling

Interview with Sonia Livingstone on keeping children safe online.

In this interview, Sonia Livingstone discussed how the digital has reconfigured the lives of children and families and the complexities surrounding discussions about keeping children safe online.

Empowering children online through literacy and safety initiatives

Interview with Sonia Livingstone, January 2015.

In this interview, Sonia Livingstone discussed the EU Kids Online project, explaining its aims, and the key differences and similarities across countries. 

Young children (0-8) and digital technology: A qualitative exploratory study – UK National Report

By Sonia Livingstone, Jackie Marsh, Lydia Plowman, Svenja Ottovordemgentschenfelde & Ben Fletcher-Watson

As UK homes acquire more digital technologies, and as those technologies become more portable and diverse, ever younger children are using the internet at home and school. This report presented the findings of a pilot study with ten families from London, Sheffield and Edinburgh to examine children’s digital technology use, including engagement with tablets, computers, gaming consoles and other devices.


How can parents support children’s internet safety?

By Sonia Livingstone & Andrea Duerager 

This report looked at how parents can support their child’s internet safety by sharing positive experiences online. It drew on the findings of an EU Kids Online survey of more than 25,000 9-16 year olds in 25 countries and shows that when parents actively mediate their child’s internet use, this is associated with both lower risk and harm.

The mediatization of childhood and education: Reflections on The Class

By Sonia Livingstone 

The book chapter drew on insights from The Class project, an ethnographic study of one year in the lives of a class of 13-14 year olds in a London suburb. It offered insights into how social, digital and learning networks enable or disempower young people by tracing shifts in meanings, practices and values in their everyday lives that are full of digital technologies.

Children’s rights online: challenges, dilemmas and emerging directions

By Sonia Livingstone & Brian O’Neill 

This chapter explored the current state of children’s right on the Internet and called for a new framework to ensure child protection, provision and participation online. The authors applied the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to the Internet and identified it as a valuable framework to formulate Internet governance policy in the interests of children.


The digital universe of your children

By Sonia Livingstone, European Schoolnet & Liberty Global

This video aimed to educate parents on children’s safety online. The three-minute animation tackled parental concerns and provided practical tips for parents to help their children stay safe. At the end of the video, parents can download eight tip sheets with advice on how to deal with a variety of issues and concerns.

In their own words: What bothers children online

By Sonia Livingstone, Lucyna Kirwil, Cristina Ponte & Elisabeth Staksrud with the EU Kids Online Network 

This report drew on EU Kids Online research and revealed what upsets more than 10,000 children online. While the list of concerns is long and diverse, pornography as well as violent, aggressive or gory content are children’s top concerns. Based on children’s own accounts of online risks, the researchers provided a range of policy recommendations.

What (and where) Is the ‘learning’ when we talk about learning in the home?

By Julian Sefton-Green

This paper addressed the notion of learning transfer to make sense of how we learn across social contexts and what learning might mean in more informal domestic circumstances. The author discussed the case studies of six families to identify a) how learning is constructed, mediated and enacted and b) how it is subject to a series of class-based, inherited, and aspirational discourses as well as social imaginaries.

Learning at not-school

By Julian Sefton-Green 

This reports investigated the phenomenon how we think about and organize learning places that are like schools but not schools. The author argued that it is universally acknowledged across the social spectrum that schools in and of themselves are not the end-all and be-all of education and explored the expectations associated with informal and non-formal learning environments.

“It made our eyes get bigger”: Youth filmmaking and place-making in East London

By Alicia Blum-Ross

This paper drew on two years of ethnographic research in London and described how participatory youth filmmaking projects act as a deliberate intervention into young people’s experiences of place and space. The author discussed how filmmaking mediates young people’s experiences and invites them to experience a heightened perceptual attention to their surroundings by creating new forms of “sensing place.”

Children, internet, pornography – An explosive mix of words

By Sonia Livingstone

Parents are anxious and newspaper headlines scream about a porn-addicted generation. None of this helps to understand what is really going on – especially when many parents feel out of their depth dealing with new and complex technologies that didn’t exist when they were growing up. Having spoken to thousands of parents and children for the EU Kids Online studies, Sonia Livingstone discussed some of those growing concerns.

Connected learning: an agenda for research and design

By Mizuko Ito, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green and Craig S. Watkins. 

This report is a synthesis of ongoing research, design, and implementation of an approach to education called “connected learning.” It advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. 


Government response to the consultation on parental control Is good news but raises new questions

By Sonia Livingstone

This blog post reflected on the outcome of the Government’s consultation on parental internet controls. While this is welcome news to those concerned with improving children’s internet safety in the UK, Sonia Livingstone argued that filtering out pornographic or other inappropriate online content represents one useful part of what must be a multi-stakeholder approach, involving industry, government, parents, teachers, police and others.

Critical reflections on the benefits of ICT in education

By Sonia Livingstone 

In both schools and homes, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are widely seen as enhancing the learning process. This article examined the possible explanations for why ICTs are not yet so embedded in the social practices of everyday life as to be taken for granted, with schools proving slower to change their lesson plans than they were to fit computers in the classroom.

Youth filmmaking and ‘justice-oriented citizenship’

By Alicia Blum-Ross

This paper explored the different discourses of ‘citizenship’ that emerged within a youth filmmaking project for young British Muslims. The author demonstrated how project funders and organizers propose different versions of citizenship to those privileged by the young participants. The paper considered particular technical, creative and social affordances of filmmaking so as to examine whether these different visions are able to be reconciled.


For more information, please contact:







Alicia Blum-Ross aliciablumross

. @Livingstone_S you'll be pleased to know this was in relationship to 'reading the runes' đŸ˜‚…


Reply Retweet Favorite

Alicia Blum-Ross aliciablumross

RT @QuestPolicy: Actionable, evidence-based advice on what both industry and parents should do about objectionable kids content on @YouTube…

2 days ago

Reply Retweet Favorite