Norwegian version

We do not know enough about the digital everyday lives of children and young people

Portrait of Halla B. Holmarsdottir

Professor Halla B. Holmarsdottir of the Faculty of Education and International Studies is the project manager for the newly started research project The impact of technological transformations on the Digital Generation (DigiGen)

DigiGen is a Horizon 2020 project. Researchers will be investigating how digitalisation and technological development affects the lives of children and young people.  

What makes DigiGen such an important project? 

We have some general research on digitalisation, as well as researching focusing on risks associated with the internet in schools. However, we know very little about how everyday use of technology affects the daily lives of children and young people.  

DigiGen aims to understand how technology affects children and young people in their home life, family life, school life, in their free time and as part of their digital citizenship. It is necessary to understand these aspects of children’s lives, and where the boundaries between these different aspects are located. 

As a result of technology, these boundaries are no longer clear. For example, technology contributes not only to learning at school, but also to leisurely learning at home. 

What do you know about this today? How does technology affect the lives of children and young people?

There is a tendency to assume that children born in the digital era will automatically have digital skills and knowledge. Especially since, for them, the use of technology is everywhere; in homes, at school, during free time and leisure activities. 

The use of digital technology and the internet surrounds younger children during critical stages of early development. There is, therefore, a growing need for empirical research to understand children's use and experience of new technology in their daily lives.  

What we know about online behaviour often stems from the experience of older generations that are using ICT. Otherwise, the data is also based on parents or teachers' perceptions of children and young people’s online behaviours. Although, that supplies us with limited empirical knowledge of the actual experiences of children and young people as individuals. 

When it comes to the inclusion of ICT in education, the most relevant and sustained findings, in recent decades, is that the integration of ICT and digital competence in education is more challenging than anticipated.

Preparing children and young people for a life in the digital community is complex. It requires a great deal of effort from parents, teachers and other significant figures in the lives of children and young people.

Previous research in this field has focused on inequality of access to ICT, students' academic performances, and online risks and security. DigiGen has another focus and wishes to look beyond that. 

What are you most proud to have accomplished as a researcher?

An important part of my research career is a project that I produced with Sudan and South Africa on gender and education (GEEP – Gender Equality, Education and Poverty). As part of this project, capacity building for researchers, especially in Sudan, was the focus.

The research team worked hard to support our Sudanese colleagues with publishing in English. We also published this project together with masters and PhD students. For me, supporting and working with others is something that I feel is important as a researcher.  

What has surprised you most in your career as a researcher so far?

As a researcher, I learned a lot during the GEEP project in collaboration with Africa and Sudan. For example, our partner University in Sudan, Ahfad University for Women, sends their students to work with different communities across the country. I think we in Norway could learn a lot from this community work and improve how we involve our students in different communities, and in the field of practice.   

What does a good day at work look like for a researcher?

A good day is when I can sit and work with literature, data or analysis for hours on end and lose track of time, forget to eat, etc. I work best when I can go somewhere and work intensively for a couple of weeks, without any commitments, meetings or other things that can take the focus away from working.  

Who would you most like to have a coffee and a professional chat with?

I would say Hannah Arendt, particularly because her work covers a broad range of topics, but she is also best known for understanding the nature of power and evil, as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. In other words, she has a focus on social justice in many ways.  

If you had not become a researcher, what would you be?

An astrophysicist. I have a close colleague who is an astrophysicist, and it seems so exciting to be able to study everything from the physical properties of astronomical objects (i.e. stars and galaxies) to how they affect each other. 

Finally, what is your hidden talent?

Swimming. I swam several thousand kilometres per week and as a teenager and I was No. 4 in the California State Championship 500 meter crawl.

Facts about DigiGen

DigiGen aims to develop knowledge about how children and young people use and are affected by the technological transformations in their everyday lives.

The project takes as its focus children and young people, a group growing up today that is described as the digital generation (DigiGen).

DigiGen – The Impact of Technological Transformations on the Digital Generation

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