In the decades it takes to bring up a child, parents face challenges that are both helped and hindered by the fact that they are living through a period of unprecedented digital innovation. Drawing on extensive research with diverse parents – rich and poor, parenting toddlers to teenagers – Parenting for a Digital Future reveals how digital technologies give personal and political parenting struggles a distinctive character, as parents determine how to forge new territory with little precedent, or support.
Our book, “Parenting for a Digital Future: How hopes and fears about technology shape children's lives" is now available from Oxford University Press. The book flyer, with publisher’s discount, is here
The book reveals the pincer movement of parenting in late modernity. Parents are, at once, more burdened with responsibilities, given the erosion of state support and an increasingly uncertain financial future, and yet also charged with respecting the agency of their child – leaving much to negotiate in today’s “democratic” families. The book charts how parents now, often, enact authority and values through digital technologies – as ‘screen time,’ games or social media become both ways of being together and of setting boundaries. For many parents, digital technologies introduce both valued opportunities but also new sources of risk. To light their way, parents comb through the hazy memories of their own childhoods and look towards varied imagined futures. This results in deeply diverse parenting in the present, as parents move between embracing, resisting or balancing the role of technology in their own and their children’s lives.
Sonia talks about the book in her TED Talk here, and in a Good Thinking podcast.
The research is part of the Connected Learning Research Network, funded by the MacArthur Foundation and conducted by Sonia Livingstone working with Alicia Blum-Ross and Julian Sefton-Green.
*New reports from our national survey of UK parents*
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 a book from NYU Press as The Class: Living and Learning in a Digital Age in 2016 through the Connected Learning Alliance.
NOTE: we regularly update our research blog www.parenting.digital 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.
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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.
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.
- Review of iGen: why today’s super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy – and completely unprepared for adulthood
In this review for the Journal of Children and Media Sonia Livingstone looked at the evidence base behind the widely-reported claim that young people’s mental health and well-being has suffered because of the introduction of smartphones.
- Makerspaces in the early years: A literature review
Alicia Blum-Ross contributed to this literature review on children and makerspaces by reviewing the literature examining how parents can support children’s STEM learning.
- Sharenting, parent blogging, and the boundaries of the digital self
In this journal article Alicia Blum-Ross and Sonia Livingstone asked whether “sharenting” (sharing representations of one’s parenting or children online) is a form of digital self-representation.
- Maximizing Opportunities and Minimizing Risks for Children Online: The Role of Digital Skills in Emerging Strategies of Parental Mediation
Led by Sonia Livingstone, this journal article was based on surveys of 800+ parents across eight-European countries and found that restrictive mediation is associated with fewer online risks but at the cost of opportunities, reflecting policy advice that regards media use as primarily problematic.
- Screen time for kids: Getting the balance right
Alicia Blum-Ross and Sonia Livingstone produced this infographic about managing children’s ‘screen time’ with the Connected Learning Alliance, providing advice for shifting the focus away from screen time and towards content, context and connections.
- Researching children and childhood in the digital age
This book chapter, by Sonia Livingstone and Alicia Blum-Ross argues that researchers interested in the lives of children must pay attention to the digital in all aspects of childhood research.
- Measurement matters: difficulties in defining and measuring children’s television viewing in a changing media landscape
Sonia Livingstone and Claire Local wrote this journal article to demonstrate how audience measurement techniques currently fail to provide a clear picture of trends in children’s television viewing because of the diversification in devices on which television content can be viewed.
- Response to the consultation on GDPR consent guidance, Information Commissioner’s Office and Department of Media, Culture and Sport
Sonia Livingstone submitted an evidence-based response to the consultation on GDPR consent guidance and derogations.
- Children and young people’s rights in the digital age: An emerging agenda
In this journal article Sonia Livingstone and Amanda Third argued that that the child represents a limit case of adult normative discourses about both rights and digital media practices.
- European research on children’s internet use: Assessing the past, anticipating the future
In this journal article, led by Sonia Livingstone, researchers from the EU Kids Online network consider the different phases of Internest studies as they relate to understanding the lives of children online.
- Children’s online activities, risks and safety
In this literature review, by the UKCCIS Evidence Group (of which Sonia Livingstone is a lead member) the group reviewed new research on children’s engagement with the internet in light of new risks and safety issues arising.
- BOOK The Class: Living and learning in the digital age
Published by NYU Press, and co-authored by Sonia Livingstone and Julian Sefton-Green based on fieldwork at an ordinary London school, The Class examines young people’s experiences of growing up and learning in a digital world. The research explores youth values, teenagers’ perspectives on their futures, and their tactics for facing the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
- BOOK: Learning Identities, Education and Community: Young Lives in the Cosmopolitan City
This book, published by Cambridge University Press and co-authored by Julian Sefton-Green, examines learning as a life-wide concept, the study reveals how 'learning identities' are forged through complex interplays between young people and their communities, and how these identities translate and transfer across different locations and learning contexts.
- Families and screen time: Current advice and emerging research
In this policy brief Alicia Blum-Ross and Sonia Livingstone argue that ‘screen time’ advice for families is out of date, in relationship to current practice in families and in terms of the emerging evidence base from research.
- Learning versus play or learning through play? How parents’ imaginaries, discourses and practices around ICTs shape children’s (digital) literacy practices
In this article, Giovanna Mascheroni, Sonia Livingstone, Michael Dreier, and Stephane Chaudron explore how parents manage the digital media practices of children younger than eight across Europe.
- Reframing media effects in terms of children’s rights in the digital age
In this journal article Sonia Livingstone debates the intellectual and political choices media and communications researchers make when they frame their work in terms of effects (often risk-focused) or rights (drawing on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).
- From youth voice to young entrepreneurs: The individualization of digital media and learning
In this journal article Alicia Blum-Ross and Sonia Livingstone argue that over the past decades the rhetoric around digital media and learning has become more instrumental as youth media initiatives using technology – from filmmaking to coding – have become institionalized.
- Researching ‘learning lives’- a new agenda for learning, media and technology
This journal article by Julian Sefton-Green and Ola Erstad dissects an interest in the term, ‘learning lives’ in order to explicate the meaning(s) of the phrase and to set up a series of challenges for research into young people’s learning.
- Written evidence submitted to the ‘Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools’ inquiry
This submission of written evidence by Sonia Livingstone and Alex Chernyavskaya to the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee’s sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools inquiry discussed research conducted for the European Commission and for Child Safety Online.
- Establishing a Research Agenda for the Digital Literacy Practices of Young Children
This report 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.
- One size ‘screen time’ advice fits no one: Acknowledging diversity and special needs (ParentZone)
Sonia Livingstone and Alicia Blum-Ross wrote a blog post for ParentZone arguing that children have extremely diverse needs, including additional needs and disabilities, and that blanket scree-time advice does not often address these.
- Woman’s Hour phone in: Kids and Screens (BBC Radio 4)
Alicia Blum-Ross addressed parental concerns about screen addiction and whether it matters that children are attached to their phones, tablets, and computer games.
- BBC Breakfast & Good Morning Scotland' (BBC Radio Scotland)
Alicia Blum-Ross addressed a new Ofcom report saying children now use the internet more than they watch television.
- ‘I was so embarrassed I cried’ Do parents share too much online? (The Guardian)
Alicia Blum-Ross was interviewed for this feature in the Guardian Magazine about whether parents should share information about their children online.
- Kids & Technology (The Motherland Podcast)
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 (BBC2) & The Today Programme (BBC Radio 4)
Alicia Blum-Ross appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC2 (segment starts at 24:11) and the Today Programme to discuss ‘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? (The Telegraph)
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.
- Younger children online: How are families responding? (CEOP National Crime Agency)
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.
- On kids and screens: A middle way between fear and hype (NPR Education)
Anya Kamenetz of NPR interviewed Sonia Livingstone about attitudes many parents have regarding their children’s screen time and internet use. Sonia argued that parents need to develop more positive approaches to ‘screen time.
- Gearty Grilling
In this interview with the LSE’s Patrick Gearty, 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 (LSE Research)
In this interview with the LSE Research Impact channel, Sonia Livingstone discussed the EU Kids Online project, explaining its aims, and the key differences and similarities across countries.
- How the ordinary experiences of young people are being affected by networked technologies (LSE 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.
- 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.
2014 and earlier
- How can parents support children’s internet safety?
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
This book chapter by Sonia Livingstone drew on insights from The Class 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
This book chapter by Sonia Livingstone and Brian O’Neill 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.
- What (and where) Is the ‘learning’ when we talk about learning in the home?
This article by Julian Sefton-Green 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.
- Learning at not-school
This report by Julian Sefton-Green investigated the phenomenon how we think about and organize learning places that are like schools but not schools.
- Connected learning: an agenda for research and design
This report by the Connected Learning Research Network (which has funded both The Class and Preparing for a Digital Future) proposes an approach to education called ‘connected learning’ which is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity.