Federal Education Minister launches Digital Child research centre

The world’s first dedicated research centre to create positive digital experiences for children from birth to age eight was officially launched by the Federal Education Minister Jason Clare at QUT in Brisbane today.

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child is administered and based at QUT’s Education precinct in Kelvin Grove.

The centre began its operations two years ago, but COVID restrictions delayed its official opening.

Mr Clare was joined by presentations from QUT Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Margaret Sheil AO; Centre Director Professor Susan Danby FASSA; Australian Research Council Chief Executive Officer Ms Judi Zielke PSM; and Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Ms Julie Inman-Grant.

Mr Clare said the centre is an example of Australian research at its finest.

“The centre will integrate child health, education and digital and social connectedness to support young children growing up in a rapidly changing digital age,” he said.

“It will increase Australia’s research capacity and competitiveness and puts us at the forefront of research into young children and digital technology.”

Pandemic parenting, video games and children’s wellbeing and a longitudinal study tracking more than 3000 Australian families from birth are among the research investigations under way.  

QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil said the centre’s purpose-built technology spaces were equipped with the latest innovations for families and children to participate in research.

“The work we are doing at this centre is ground-breaking,” she said.

The Centre’s Director Professor Susan Danby said it was important to “look over the horizon” to what the world will be like for the digital child in 10 years’ time.

“Our vision is to ensure young children grow up confident and healthy, connected and educated for the digital world,” she said.

“This has become especially important these last few years and the pandemic has changed the ways we live and reinforced the urgency and importance of our centre that investigates children and digital technologies.”

Some of the key outcomes for the research centre include: –

  • Develop guidelines to aid families and schools to make informed decisions about data capture, online privacy, and safety.
  • Policy recommendations for sleep and activity, screen time as well as language use and communication with digital technology.
  • Policy relating to game rating systems that provide parents with a greater level of detail about gameplay characteristics.
  • Procedures for assessing children’s digital content, products, services, and experiences; resources for educators to support children’s digital interactions.

The centre has received $34.9 million funding from the Australian Research Council over seven years.

The centre’s collective of researchers is led by QUT and includes Curtin University, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University, The University of Queensland and University of Wollongong, and expertise drawn from 14 universities around the world and industry partners across technology, education, government, and community.

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