How do children think about technology?

Dec 07, 2004

Children growing up in the West today cannot imagine a world without mobile phones. They use high-tech gadgets without thinking much about them. An international research project will now examine what these skills mean for the society.
"We call them ‘power users of technology’ – I haven’t found a good Norwegian expression for it yet," says Barbara Wasson, Professor at the Department for Information Science and Media Studies and researcher at InterMedia.

The project is an initiative in cooperation between the Education Development Center in the USA and The United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP).

“It is about children and young people who have developed sophisticated technological skills. My 10-year-old knows for example much more about mobile phones than I do. It comes naturally to them. A lot of efforts have been made to teach children to use computer tools at school, but those who are young now have totally different skills than we can imagine,” she explains.

"The first thing people tend to think about is computers, but to be a “power user” involves much more than that. Let’s take Game Boy, for example. If you are a child good at Game Boy, it comes with a certain social status. Children call their friends to discuss Game Boy. They have a completely different field of activities than adults and it is a challenge for us to understand how these skills influence institutions, companies and society as such.

"We wish to find out how they think about their own use of technology, and it is important to look at it from many different points of view: development, economy, sociology, learning and cognition, etc. It is an international and interdisciplinary approach which is very exciting,” says Wasson.

The UN puts great emphasis on using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for development purposes. While developing countries accounted for only 2 percent of the world’s internet users in 1991, this figure has risen to 23 percent in 2001. It can be observed that children who are granted access to communications technology develop the same skills regardless whether they live in developing countries or industrialised countries.

"The project focuses on the special significance ICT has for the economy in developing countries. India, for example, has almost taken over the development within programming because the country offers inexpensive and extremely skilled technical labour,” Wasson points out.

Many adults watch the children’s mass consumption of technology with scepticism. In newspaper parents are constantly encouraged to pay attention and to limit the time kids spend in front of the computer.

“But if the child was sitting on the couch with a book or a board game, we would be happy, of course. We have an idea of what is good and what is bad, and, for example, this computer issue is linked to research that claims that children get too little physical exercise because they sit in front of the computer instead. However, other research shows that those who use the computer are also often very engaged in sports, meaning that one can be involved in several areas. It is a nuanced picture and there are many research challenges here.”

The technology changes society and the patter how we interact with one another. If you ask a young person how many friends he has, the answer may be one hundred. It is the number he has in his address book in his phone.

Professor Wasson’s task will be, among other things, to stimulate research in this field in Europe.

"Just at UoB we have several researchers interested in these issues and I’m going to encourage Norwegian researchers from various institutions to develop projects as part of this research initiative.”

Source: The Research Council of Norway

Explore further: Cougars' diverse diet helped them survive the Pleistocene mass extinction

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Economics, budgeting for six-year-olds to nine-year-olds

Apr 09, 2014

Children in grades one through three are in their most formative years, says the University of Toronto's Radha Maharaj – so she created a series of Kidonomics books to teach basic economic principles she ...

Hi-tech innovation gauges science learning in preschoolers

Apr 07, 2014

Researchers are blending technology with nature, as they present details on an iPad application to examine how young children are learning science skills in nature-themed outdoor play settings. Alan Wight, a doctoral candidate ...

Inspiring invention in primary school

Mar 28, 2014

Inspiring primary school age children to think of themselves as inventors and to devise novel solutions to the problems around them was the aim of an educational experiment reported in the International Journal of Technology ...

Croatian island children connect with online learning

Mar 14, 2014

For Croatia, making sure the five children on the tiny island of Susak get good schooling is not only a civic responsibility, it's a way of ensuring the viability of its sparsely populated Adriatic islands.

Recommended for you

Male-biased tweeting

11 minutes ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

1 hour ago

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

High-calorie and low-nutrient foods in kids' TV

Fruits and vegetables are often displayed in the popular Swedish children's TV show Bolibompa, but there are also plenty of high-sugar foods. A new study from the University of Gothenburg explores how food is portrayed in ...