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Technical report

Young children today are growing up in a digital world, led by adults who had a childhood much different from theirs. Digital media and a wide range of digital technologies are shaping young people’s lives, learning and wellbeing. The digital environment is global, but countries and cultures have adopted and used digital media in ways that have affected child health and development differently, in positive and negative ways. With this research, Australia is at the forefront of Global Growing Up Digital (GUD) in studying how digital media are being used and how these uses may be influencing human health and development in positive and negative ways.

It is increasingly challenging to measure the time that young people spend on devices and how they use digital media and technologies. Screen-based devices are portable, multiple, pervasive, and integrated as essential gadgets in young people’s lives, and what counts as ‘screen time’ is challenging to define and measure. It is also questionable whether focusing on this adds value. We believe a better collection of data comes from understanding the how and why that drive young people and their parents to make the decisions that they do. In the end, the most important question is: What are children NOT doing when they spend more and more hours each day in front of the screens of their digital devices?

Key facts:

  • More than four in five children own at least one screen-based device that belongs to them, and children own, on average, three digital devices at home. Personal ownership of gadgets starts as young as four years old.
  • Only 46% of parents felt that their child spends a day without digital technology.
  • 73% of parents and grandparents think it is harder to control their child’s digital habits since getting their own screen-based device.
  • 65% of parents agreed that ‘negotiating digital technologies use causes conflicts in our home’.
  • 83% of parents, carers and grandparents felt that their child was negatively distracted by digital technologies.
  • Half of parents said that they would welcome more support from their child’s school to help them and their child to manage digital media and technologies use at home. 
Related Information

Growing up digital Australia: phase 1 technical report https://apo.org.au/node/303281

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