By Hannah Green and Celia Hannon,This report from the think tank Demos argues that children are developing a sophisticated understanding of new technologies outside of formal schooling, gaining creative and entrepreneurial skills demanded by the global knowledge economy. Schools are failing to develop these skills, with many attempting to limit children’s online activity to ICT ‘ghettos’ while banning the use of social networking sites like MySpace and Youtube.
The research, based on nine months of interviews, focus groups and recording children’s online activity, found that a majority of children use new media tools to make their lives easier and strengthen existing friendship networks. Almost all children were involved in creative production e.g. uploading and editing photos and building websites and a smaller group of ‘digital pioneers’ are engaged in more groundbreaking activities. The research also found that children are well aware of potential risks, with many able to self regulate, contrary to popular assumptions about safety.
The report makes a number of proposals on how formal education can adapt to the growing dominance of online culture in children’s lives. It proposes that the Children’s Commissioner should convene a working group of children to advise on children’s use of technology. It also suggests that a national strategy should be developed, with schools combating the ‘digital divide’ taking the lead. Schools would be responsible for delivering access to hardware such as a laptop, tablet or mobile device for every child.
The report is available at: http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Their%20space%20-%20web.pdf