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Digital wildfires image
An image from a video made by the 'Digital Wildfires’ project, led by Marina Jirotka

Professor Marina Jirotka from the Depatment of Computer Science was one of the contributors to a major report by academics that is calling for a digital environment that is ‘fit for childhood’.

Key recommendations from the Digital Childhood report include: education for children receiving a smartphone for the first time; design standards to meet childhood development milestones; and government taking account of children’s views when creating policy. The report was written by a group of academics led by Dr Angharad Rudkin, Child Clinical Psychologist at University of Southampton, and convened by Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE, Founder of 5Rights.

Dr Rudkin says: ‘Children and young people need to be supported on their journey through the digital world and should have access to the same privileges, information and rights that they enjoy in the analogue world.’

The authors believe that the digital environment has created welcome opportunities for children and young people and excluding them from it is neither an option, nor desirable. While there is awareness about some of the more extreme risks, such as grooming and child sexual abuse, more mundane and prevalent risks tend to be overlooked. These include insomnia, obesity, low self-esteem and oversharing. These risks present real harm to childhood development. For example, sleep deprivation caused by extended use can affect concentration, performance at school and general wellbeing. Evidence shows that a ten-year old should be getting between 9 and 11 hours of sleep a night.

Baroness Kidron adds that the report was long overdue: ‘If we allow a digital environment that doesn’t take account of the needs of childhood, we reject the hard-won privileges and protections that a century and a half of careful consideration, research and lawmaking across the globe has afforded our children. If we leave things as they are, we denigrate the status of children, and childhood, in the plain sight of parents, media, civil society and governments.’

Professor Jirotka says: "For researchers designing and developing digital environments, this report provides much needed guidance for attending to and supporting the particular needs and rights of children."

The Digital Childhood contributors were Baroness Beeban Kidron, Founder 5Rights; Dr. Angharad Rudkin, University of Southampton; Prof. Miranda Wolpert, Anna Freud Centre / UCL; Prof. Joanna Adler, Middlesex University; Dr. Andrew K. Przybylski, University of Oxford; Dr. Elvira Perez Vallejos, University of Nottingham; Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Imperial College London; Dr. Joshua Chauvin, Mindstrong Health; Dr. Kathryn L. Mills, University of Oregon; Prof. Marina Jirotka, University of Oxford, and Dr. Julian Childs, Anna Freud Centre / UCL.

Story courtesy of the Department of Computer Science