Longitudinal Family Cohort Study

“What and how much digital technology is currently used by young children, and to what effects?”

Digital technologies are rapidly changing. They are used with, and accessed by, even the very youngest children. Our global-first Longitudinal Family Cohort Study (LFCS) investigates the extent, nature and ongoing effects of Australian children’s engagement with digital technologies.

We are the first study in the world to investigate children’s digital engagement at a population level, documenting and tracking patterns of digital engagement of more than 3000 Australian families and their children from birth to seven years of age.

Our study is designed to provide the big picture; to identify potential problems and unmet possibilities associated with digital technologies in early childhood. Our study will build new understandings to help identify policy and practice ‘hot spots’ for detailed investigation, with the aim of informing solutions and opportunities for optimisation for the diversity of Australian children, their families and society.

Our Family Study is uniquely transdisciplinary, intersecting across areas of Health, Education and Connectedness to provide a holistic view of children’s experiences and the impact of digital technologies.

Additionally, the Family Study will identify how contemporary use of digital technology varies – across different social and geographical groups – along with other factors that relate to digital technology use; for example, characteristics of the child (such as gender, birth order), family make up (e.g., single parent, teen parents, dual income, high-tech use parents).

Sitting within the Family Study are nested studies that focus on the Healthy Child, Educated Child and Connected Child. These studies will use subsamples of either several hundred or several dozen participants from the Family Study. While they vary in design, methodological approaches and analytic frameworks, each of the programs link and connect with others to provide a holistic view of children’s experiences digital technologies and their impact.

Dr Sally Staton
  • Chief Investigator
  • The University of Queensland
Professor Karen Thorpe
  • Chief Investigator and Longitudinal Family Cohort Study Co-Leader
  • The University of Queensland
Dr Juliana Zabatiero
  • Chief Investigator and Longitudinal Family Cohort Study Co-Leader
  • Curtin University

Key achievements in 2021

  • a LFCS Working Group was established to contribute to planning, implementation, and management of the study. Group responsibilities include review and feedback on key study documents and protocols, and decision-making regarding construct and measurement item inputs
  • the stratification frame and management plan for the LFCS was developed and uploaded to the Centre Hub
  • at the Chief Investigator’s Retreat (March 2021), Chief Investigators generated initial set of key research questions for the study
  • developed a process and timeline for the consultation, development, and generation of the survey content
  • Centre members invited to complete online survey to identify, guide and refine the focus of the survey
  • in-principle additional support to appoint a Project Manager to support the study’s delivery

Activity plan for 2022

  • at the Digital Child Annual Meeting (DCAM) (February 2022), collate ongoing input from Centre members and partners on key research questions, constructs and measures to inform the development of the key survey content areas and/or items
  • develop and seek ethics approval for conduct of Longitudinal Family Cohort Study
  • continue to develop survey design: measurement development
  • initiate online survey development in chosen platform
  • establish data sharing and storage platform
  • establish a public-facing name for the study
  • scope a platform for participant interaction
  • initiate recruitment and data collection

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child acknowledges the First Australian owners of the lands on where we gather and pay our respects to the Elders, lores, customs and creation spirits of this country.