National study to provide the big picture on how digital technologies are changing early childhood

The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child is seeking thousands of Australian families to take part in the world-first longitudinal study of young children’s engagement with digital technologies, from six months of age.

The Australian Children of the Digital Age (ACODA) study, launched today during National Children’s Week, will investigate children’s digital engagement in a four-year study involving more than 3000 Australian families.

Digital Child Director Professor Susan Danby said that digital technologies were changing childhood as we know it with implications for young children’s health, education, wellbeing, and social connections.

“Digital technologies are used with, and accessed by, even our very youngest children and this usage is rapidly increasing,” Professor Danby said.

“The big question facing parents and carers is: What does the central presence of digital technologies mean for your children?”

Professor Daniel Johnson said that currently, relatively little was known about how young children used digital technologies with several urgent research gaps in this area.

“Children are living in progressively digital worlds where the boundary between virtual and real life is increasingly blurred,” Professor Johnson said.

“Our study will provide actionable insights by identifying the ways in which technology is benefiting families but also highlighting the concerns that they have,” Professor Johnson said.

Digital technology offers a myriad of opportunities for learning and play, but also significant risks for young children. By gathering data from 3000 Australian families, ACODA will identify ‘hot spots’ for detailed investigation.

Dr Juliana Zabatiero said that there was a lack of clarity about the place of digital technologies in supporting young children as they learn and grow.

 “Parents, carers, and professionals caring for young children are reporting increased concerns over how best to support children using digital technology,” Dr Zabatiero said.

“ACODA will empower children and their families by providing important insight into the way technology use relates with different aspects of a child’s life.

“These findings will help us identify not just those at risk of poor outcomes, but also determine ways to reduce potential negative impacts of technology use.”

Other key issues addressed by ACODA include equity, access, and the digital divide. The study aims to identify potential problems and inequities related to children’s use of digital technology.

Professor Grace Sarra said that in Australia many children across different communities in Australia did not have access to digital technologies with access and usage differing in relation to socio-economic status, gender, social, cultural, language and age characteristics of individuals and communities.

“Children experiencing digital exclusion miss out on access to knowledge and important social connections,“ Professor Sarra said.

“By collecting population-level data, ACODA will inform evidence-based advice for policy makers on how and where access should be improved.”

ACODA will run for at least four years. In the first year, families with children aged between six months and five years of age are invited to participate. 

Media contact: Tara Roberson, 07 3138 8515,

Digital Child – The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child is the world’s first research centre dedicated to creating positive digital childhoods for all Australian children. The Digital Child is led by Centre Director Professor Susan Danby and includes six Australian universities: QUT (lead university), Curtin University, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University, University of Queensland, and the University of Wollongong. The ACODA leadership team is composed of Digital Child Chief Investigators: Professor Daniel Johnson (QUT), Professor Grace Sarra (QUT) and Dr Juliana Zabatiero (Curtin University).

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