Norwegian version

We Know Too Little About Young People's Everyday Digital Lives

Vice-Dean Halla B. Holmarsdottir of the Faculty of Education and International Studies is project manager for the newly started research project “The impact of technological transformations on the Digital Generation (DigiGen)”.  DigiGen is part of a EU Horizon 2020 project, and the researchers are going to investigate how digitalization and technological development impact children and young people’s lives.

What makes DigiGen such an important project? 

We have some research on digitalization in general as well as a focus on schools about online risk. But we know very little about the daily lives of children and young people in terms of technology, and how technology affects their everyday lives.

DigiGen aims to understand how technology affects children and young people at home, in family life, at school, in their leisure time and their digital citizenship. There is a need to understand the different arenas of children's lives, and where the boundaries between these different systems around the children go. Because of technology these boundaries are no longer clear. For example, technology contributes to learning in leisure and at home, not only at school.

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, where the use of technology is everywhere - in homes, play arenas, leisure time and schools - automatically have digital skills and knowledge. The use of digital technologies and internet expands and includes younger children in critical stages of early development. It is therefore a growing need for empirical research to understand children's use and experience of these new technologies in their daily lives. 

What we know about online behavior often applies to the use and experience of ICT from older generations. Or the data is based on parents or teachers' perceptions of children and young people's online behaviors. That gives us 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 integration of ICT use and digital competence in education is more challenging than expected. 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 important agents in the children and young people’s lives.

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

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).

Together with researchers from institutions across Europe, we will investigate how children and young people use and are affected by the technological transformations in their everyday lives. The project aims to achieve this by explaining the conditions under which harmful versus beneficial effects of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use by children and young people occur in order to develop effective social, educational, health and online safety policies, practices and market regulation.

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

A project (GEEP – Gender Equality, Education and Poverty) I have had with Sudan and South Africa on gender and education is something important in my research career. Here capacity building for researchers, especially in Sudan was the focus. The research team worked hard to support our Sudanese colleagues in publishing in English. In the project, we also published together with masters and PhD students. For me supporting and working with others is something I feel is important as a researcher. 

Tell us about an experience you've had doing research that surprised you or challenged your preconceptions.

While the GEEP project with Africa and Sudan was focused on building research capacity, as a researcher, I learned a lot from this collaboration. For example, our partner university in Sudan, Ahfad University for Women, sends their student out to work with people (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 the field of practice.  

What does a good workday look like?

When I can sit and work with a text, data or analysis for hours on end and where you 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 work. 

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 best known for those dealing with the nature of power and evil, as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. In other words, a focus on social justice in many ways. 

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

An astrophysicist. I have a good colleague who as 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 swim several thousand meters per week and as a teenager, I was No. 4 in the California State Championship 500m. Crawl.