Digital Child Ethics Toolkit: Considerations for research

Digital Child Ethics Toolkit: Considerations for research

It is naive to think our young children are growing up in the same way that adults did. Young children today are growing up in a digital world, and a vast range of digital technologies are shaping young people’s lives, learning and wellbeing. More research is needed into how digital technologies have affected child health, wellbeing and development differently—in positive and negative ways—and educators need support to translate these findings into evidence-informed policy and practice. 

Hence, Early Childhood Australia (ECA) welcomes the recent release of the Digital Child Ethics Toolkit: Ethical Considerations for Digital Childhoods Research by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child. This toolkit provides guidance to cross-disciplinary researchers working in this space in relation to contexts (such as early learning settings), methods (such as ethnographic approaches) and cohorts (such as babies and toddlers). Digital technologies have evolved so rapidly that there has been an absence of ethical standards and published guidelines to guide consistent research in this area. 

The toolkit presents Australian and international guidelines and frameworks that pertain to young children’s and families’ use of digital media. ECA is pleased that the toolkit shares our focus of birth to eight years, meaning it is relevant across the breadth of ECA’s membership.   

The toolkit unpacks specific ethical considerations when researching with children, educators and their engagement with digital technologies in early childhood. These include: 

  • risks and challenges in research involving different contexts, methods and cohorts  
  • data storage, sharing, and dissemination protocols 
  • obtaining informed consent and children’s assent 
  • embedding a child rights approach 
  • appropriate methodologies, which should be child-centred and allow children to be co-researchers, where possible 
  • ethical risks including coercion and conflicts between the values and interests of parents, children and others. 

The interactive nature of the toolkit means the resource is applicable to a range of settings and audiences, and ECA looks forward to seeing research-informed practice develop in this emergent area.  

ECA pioneered the guidelines for Australian early childhood professionals on the role and optimal use of digital technologies with, by and for young children in early childhood education and care settings in our 2018 Statement on Young Children and Digital Technologies. This Statement was developed in consultation with representatives across the early childhood sector, and included explicit links to published research and expert advice from within Australia and internationally. Children were also consulted on their perspectives about digital technologies in early childhood education and care settings. 

ECA Administrator

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