Healthy Child Program

Developing in digital worlds

About

How do we balance the health risks of digital technologies against access to knowledge and social interactions that provide opportunity for positive physical and emotional wellbeing?

Our Healthy Child research program aims to produce high-quality evidence about the positive and negative health and wellbeing effects associated with digital technology use by young children and the ways these should be navigated. We’ll focus on the key developmental areas of physical wellbeing, language and cognition, and self-regulation, focussing on screens, communication, and videogames. Based on our understandings, we’ll develop and test processes, products and services to improve children’s engagement with digital technologies. We’ll also explore emerging and future technologies for their potential to support and promote children’s development, health and wellbeing.

Approach

  • Observational studies of several hundred children using wearable sensors and clinical outcome assessments.
  • Observational studies of several dozen children using in depth video ethnography and interviews.
  • Laboratory experiments to identify precise effects of digital technology use on physical and psychosocial outcomes and explore neurophysiological, biomechanical and metabolic mechanisms for observed effects.
  • Integrated studies that pilot and evaluate strategies to promote the use of digital technology by young children that minimise harm and maximise positive outcomes.

Impact

Policy

  • Policy recommendations for sleep and activity, and active and passive screen time.
  • Guidelines for language use and communication with and around digital technology.
  • Policy relating to game rating systems that provide parents with a greater level of detail about gameplay characteristics.

Innovation

Technology innovation frameworks and products for:

  • movement and activity
  • language and cognitive development
  • game design to support wellbeing outcomes
  • innovative selector systems for choosing appropriate videogames for children.

Practice

  • Active engagement initiatives and resources targeted at families.
  • Workforce training modules for health professionals (for example, speech therapists) who work with children.
  • Good gaming guidelines for children and parents.

Key programs

Screens and physical wellbeing

  • Focus on the effects of exposure to digital screens on children’s physical development and behaviours.
  • Examine the relationship between digital technology use and sleep in early education and care settings and in the home.
  • Address effective strategies to encourage and promote active rather than passive digital use.

Language and cognition

  • Investigate the potential positive and negative effects of digital technology use on children’s cognitive development, including language and visual processing.
  • Address concerns about the detrimental effect that digital technology use may have on children’s language development.
  • Provide guidance to understand how peers, siblings, and adults should interact with each other during digital play.

Video games and children’s wellbeing

  • Examine the influence of video game play on young children’s wellbeing and development, particularly focusing on social and emotional development, self-regulation and mood.

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

The Centre recognises that the examples we set in diversity and inclusion will support young children to respect and celebrate differences in all people. We embed diversity, inclusivity and equality into all aspects of the Centre’s activities and welcome all people regardless of race, ethnicity, social background, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and national origin.