A major new report concerning the difficulties and dangers of growing up in the digital age has been compiled by Edge Hill’s Professor Geoff Beattie.
Children Without Frontiers is a research-based snapshot of current knowledge of the issues our children face in the age of the internet, which argues that by relying on certain methodological approaches in the past we may not yet know the full extent of the effects of the internet on our children.
The report warns against underestimating the effects of ‘social desirability’ when we survey or interview children or young people. For example, when children’s attitudes to what they see online are measured via them ‘self-reporting’ what they have seen, their response may well be influenced by a desire to look ‘cool’ and any psychological effects may be deeper than they realise.
The study calls for the measurement of associations in the brain, essentially through time reaction tasks.
Geoff Beattie said: “Given recent evidence which suggests that implicit, unconscious attitudes are a significant determinant of our behaviour, it’s clear that research into this whole area requires some new thinking and radical new approaches.”
In Children Without Frontiers, Professor Beattie also argues that it may be time to reappraise the whole issue of how parents deal with what their children are experiencing online, in a world where children are exposed to more extreme things earlier and at more vulnerable ages, and parents have, in many instances, been left far behind in their knowledge and understanding of this new technology.
This generational divide was explored in The Byron Review, a major government review conducted by Professor Tanya Byron, Chancellor of Edge Hill University and commissioned by the then Prime Minister, in 2008.
As Professor Beattie’s previous research has found, people are more likely to have ‘flashbulb’ memories (hardwired, indelible memories designed for human survival) of major negative events from television or the internet rather than those from significant negative events from their own life.
Geoff explains: “Parents will often feel in a powerless position, and resort to various defence
Professor Geoff Beattie
mechanisms and rationalisations to justify their position of relative inactivity, while children feel unable to discuss flashbulb memories of disturbing things they have seen online for fear of how their parents might react.”
Children Without Frontiers was commissioned by the developers of the world’s first child safety app, MobileForceField, which was launched today.