Collective effort is needed to help children thrive following exposure to online risks

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Helping children become “digitally resilient” must be a collective effort if they are to learn how to thrive online, according to new research led by the University of East Anglia. The work has been published in Education and Information Technology.

Digital resilience is the ability to learn how to recognize, manage and remedy online risks, such as bullying and inappropriate content, and has the potential to buffer how these experiences can impact young people’s well-being. Until now, research has not investigated how children can build and demonstrate digital resilience outside the focus on the individual child.

This new study argues that activating digital resilience should be undertaken as a “collective effort”, involving the child, their parents/carers in the home environment, youth workers, teachers and schools at the community level, along with governments, policy makers and internet companies at the community level. social level.

It finds that digital resilience operates at these different levels, which are critical to helping children learn to recognize, manage, recover and, depending on the support available, grow after online risk experiences.

It is important that these levels and areas do not exclude each other when it comes to digital resilience, but reinforce and interact with each other. Therefore, according to the researchers, collective responsibility should be at the heart of work in this area.

The study focused on digital resilience in pre-teens – children aged 8 to 12, transitioning into early adolescence and seeking greater independence at home, at school, in society and increasingly through online experiences.

The findings come as the latest version of the Online Safety Bill makes its way through the UK Parliament. The bill is not expected to impose a clear requirement for platforms to cooperate on cross-platform risks and respond to cross-platform harm while performing their security duties, jeopardizing the collective effort called for in the investigation.

Current United Kingdom Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) guidelines emphasize digital resilience at the individual level. The study’s lead author, Dr. Simon P. Hammond, said this emphasizes the child, “marginalizing how the home, community and societies support children to learn to navigate and grow through risky online experiences.”

“The need to support children in learning to recognize, manage and recover from online risks is an increasingly important process for everyone,” said Dr. Hammond, a teacher at the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at UEA.

“By showing how digital resilience works at and across different levels, we can provide more child-centric support to help children thrive online. To educate digitally resilient citizens, we need to think beyond just the child or their immediate family and reflecting on how community and society work with these groups. Here again, the idea prevails that, as in the offline world, we need to understand that learning by doing, involving risky play, is a lifelong process. Mistakes will occur and kids need support to learn from that.”

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Child and adolescent psychiatrist consultant Dr. Richard Graham, Co-Chair of the UKCIS Digital Resilience Working Group, said: “This important, hopeful research advances early thinking about digital resilience and provides a clear direction away from simplistic e-security strategies, highlighting how individuals, families and communities can thrive. There is a clear call to action for all of us to become more involved with young people as they learn to navigate the mercurial online world, without foregoing our growing demands that technology companies create safer online spaces that promote wellbeing and support development.”

Since the summer of 2021, England’s nine million schoolchildren have learned how to be safer online through personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. However, many existing sources, which lack a solid scientific basis, tend to take a universal rather than a personalized approach to risk.

The study provides a platform to counter this by supporting the creation of validated psychometric measures that allow for consideration of important contextual factors, such as a child’s family and community support, enabling educators to tailor-make rather than one-size-fits-all approaches. .

Co-author Dr. Gianfranco Polizzi, from the University of Liverpool, said: “Our findings have the potential to help parents/carers and educators foster digital resilience through formal and informal educational approaches that interact and demonstrate the importance of supporting pre teens’ digital resilience within and across different areas of their daily lives.”

dr. Kimberley Bartholomew, of UEA, added: “For policymakers, this study illustrates aspects that would otherwise be taken for granted. For example, a child is assumed to be more or less digitally resilient as a function of their age, rather than a combination of their age plus their digital experiences and skills.This can form new ways of teaching that promote controlled exposure to risky opportunities, which can be used to help children build and demonstrate digital resilience, rather than trying risky experiences altogether which is both short-sighted and unrealistic in our increasingly connected worlds.”

Children’s mental health and the digital world: striking the right balance

More information:
Using a socio-environmental framework to understand how 8-12 year olds build and demonstrate digital resilience: a qualitative study with multiple perspectives and multiple methods, Education and Information Technology (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10639-022-11240-z

Provided by the University of East Anglia

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