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Preparing for a Digital Future

Preparing for a Digital Future

How do children and young people, along with their parents, carers, mentors and educators imagine and prepare for their personal and professional futures in a digital age? The Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science  is conducting a three-year research project on Preparing for a Digital Future, supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation from 2014-2017. Building on their project with The Class, the researchers are 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 professional futures in a digital age?

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.  They may or may not be aided by the often-polarised policy and popular media discourses about online dangers or the detrimental effects of ‘screen time’ on the one hand, and a vision of digital media as opening radically-new pathways to academic achievement or self-expression, on the other.

To understand parental conceptions of the ‘digital future,’ we will employ a range of imaginative and creative techniques to stimulate reflection and discussion, drawing on imagery of the future as well as inviting research participants to consider reflect on the changing ecology 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, parents and carers are highly diverse, so we will both explore 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, within and across countries.

This research will be shared through a project blog for researchers, parenting organisations, educators and parents.

Please email us to be added to our mailing list for updates: S.Ottovordemgentschenfelde@lse.ac.uk

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. 

  • Micro-microcelebrity: famous babies and business on the internet
    Crystal Abidin explores lifestyle Influencers and babies as the new ‘micro-microcelebrity’. Crystal is an anthropologist and ethnographer who studies vernacular internet culture. She is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology at the National University of Singapore, Affiliated Researcher at Media Management and Transformation Centre (MMTC) at Jönköping University, and co-investigator with the Science, Technology and Society (STS) cluster at the Asia Research Institute (ARI). [Header […]
  • Book release: Framing internet safety
    Nathan W. Fisk discusses his book, ‘Framing internet safety’, which just came out in the UK yesterday. He argues for recognising the ways in which children’s online and offline lives are inseparably linked, and highlights the need to listen to children about the problems they face, as they often know better than anyone what those are. Nathan is Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity Education […]
  • When is a toothbrush not just a toothbrush?
    Joanna Adler looks into the fast-changing world of technology, connectivity and digital resilience. She writes this post in a personal capacity and tells us about a bluetooth enabled toothbrush for children, which raised a lot of questions about security vulnerabilities, protecting our privacy and data. Joanna is Professor of Forensic Psychology and Director of Forensic Psychological Services at Middlesex University. Her research is […]
  • ClassDojo poses data protection concerns for parents
    Ben Williamson and Alasdair Rutherford raise a series of concerns about the globally popular classroom management app ClassDojo. They argue that as ClassDojo has grown into a new social media site for schools, it poses a number of risks in relation to data protection and child privacy, and to how children, teachers and parents interact. Ben and Alasdair are both […]
  • Who are the young creatives?
    Why is it still so difficult for disadvantaged young people to gain access to employment in the media industries? David Buckingham takes a closer look at what – if anything – media educators can do about this situation. David is a writer and researcher with a particular interest in media, education, children and young people. He is a Visiting Professor at various universities […]

You can access our project blog here.


Principal Investigator: Professor Sonia Livingstone

Principal Research Fellow: Dr Julian Sefton-Green

Research Officer: Dr  Alicia Blum-Ross

Research Assistant: Svenja Ottovordemgentschenfelde

Project Support Assistant: César Jiménez-Martínez

Advisory group: To be appointed

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 advocates 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.

This research follows on from The Class, an ethnographic study conducted by Professor Sonia Livingstone and Dr Julian Sefton-Green at LSE from 2011-2013. The Class examined the emerging mix of on- and offline experiences in teenagers’ daily learning lives, and will be published as a book in 2015



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.