Children’s digital literacies: a contested space

Author: Lelia Green, Edith Cowan University, Australia

To cite this article

Green, Lelia. “Children’s Digital Literacies: A Contested Space.” Fusion Journal, no. 5, 2014.


Children’s digital literacies are not solely a set of technical skills. These competencies are imbricated within broader social, emotional and cultural literacies that reflect age, gender and the positioning of the parties involved. The complexity of the interplay of these factors is particularly evident when hot-button topics are considered in the high stakes period of adolescence, when children are negotiating and claiming revised boundaries of personal autonomy; and in very early childhood, when children have comparatively little agency and their activities and skills are perceived as directly reflecting the will and priorities of parents. For these reasons, children’s digital literacies are contested spaces: first, between the child and its parents; and secondly, between the child and its parents, and the broader society. Further, the concept of literacy is not neutral: it is used as a social judgement. Literacies are an expected aspect of an individual’s social engagement. Where literacy is constructed as missing, or absent, this is seen as a lack, and as a reason for judging the individual and/or their parents. The foregoing arguments are made in the body of the paper using both qualitative evidence arising from detailed ethnographies, and also survey-based research.


Digital literacies; social literacies; adolescents online; toddlers and tablets; ethnographic; Australian

Digital literacy and sociocultural competencies

This paper argues that digital literacies are a specific subset of sociocultural competencies which are revealed in what people say, as well as through what people do. It suggests that children’s online agency offers a particularly telling site for such literacies because a range of actors have vested interests in what constitutes literacy. Those active in this space include: the individual child; their siblings and peers; parents; extended family members; educators; health professionals; marketers, industry organisations, software and technology developers; regulators; and policy makers. From discussions around the comparative absence of women entering university computer science courses through to the need for a digitally-literate workforce, the public discussion upon digital literacy takes many forms. Examples include a range of discourses embedded in the need for ‘a future-proofing educational system’ to equip ‘generations of life-long learners’ keen to embark upon ‘portfolio careers’ where the ‘jobs that will employ the workers of tomorrow’ are ‘yet to be invented’. This paper focuses on the child in the domestic context since it is within the home environment that the competition between the political (and educational) agenda, and the social agenda, becomes most evident.

At a time when domestic access to the internet had not yet become commonplace, back in the 1990s, it was families with children who were first to go online (ABS 2001, ABS 2008). Children would tailor their arguments to their parents’ priorities, saying that they wanted – or needed – a computer at home in order to do their homework and to stop them falling behind. It may have been that the ‘real reason’ for the child’s desire to be online was to engage in online games, or to join in the Harry Potter fandom, but their social literacies were sufficient to ensure that a more parent-friendly reason was provided. These negotiations about ‘who gets whom to let them use what, why and when’ (to paraphrase Sonia Livingstone, 1992, p. 113) provide a telling example of how the development of technical literacies are packaged and communicated through discourse first, as a precursor to the development of technical skills.

Parents support children’s digital access because they see it as conferring opportunity or, on the contrary, fear saddling their child with a disadvantage if such access is denied. But digital opportunity goes hand in hand with risk (Livingstone & Helsper 2010). And the literacies which allow children to navigate online content to achieve their own agendas also include those which enable young people to avoid situations that concern them and handle the troubling situations that they inadvertently encounter or where they find themselves taken aback by their online experiences. How a child handles an unexpected or unwelcome exposure to particular content can illustrate literacy, as can discussion around why they find some content to be problematic while other content is not. What constitutes digital literacy reflects the context of the activity and the positioning of the discussants involved.

David Buckingham argues that discussion around digital literacy focuses upon “what young people need to know about technology – that is, the forms of competence and understanding they need if they are going to use technology effectively and critically” (Buckingham 2010, p. 59). He acknowledges that this is a diminution of the wider debate within which such technological competencies are encompassed. Indeed, even in early constructions of children’s digital literacies, technical aspects are seen as consequent upon, rather than drivers of, such literacy. For example in the late 1990s, when parents were still in the vanguard of dial-up subscribers, Paul Gilster’s view was that digital literacy represented a wide range of competencies including some which were not technological: “digital literacy is about mastering ideas, not keystrokes” (Gilster 1998, p. 15). Gilster suggested that the relevant skill-set was sufficiently wide-ranging and inclusive to justify the appropriateness of the plural term: digital literacies.

Examining children’s and parents’ constructions of digital literacies indicates that these are sociocultural practices implicated in the entire gamut of relationships and activities of everyday life. They are not a hermetically-sealed suite of competencies, but an index (as in the meaning behind index finger: discoverer, pointer, informer) of a child’s interests and activities and, to some extent, their willingness to comply with their parents’ and educators’ hopes and expectations. These literacies serve to provide a means though which individuals and groups of children and young people communicate, and engage in meta-communication, with a range of significant others. The particular contestation around what constitutes digital literacy for children lies in the activities, roles, and speaking positions impacting upon their sociocultural experience, especially as children mature through adolescence to adulthood.

Digital literacy and children’s sexuality

It was Evans and Butkus (1997), in their analysis of parental concerns around children’s access to the internet, who argued that “although parents still occupy the role of initiated with regard to sexuality, if they are uninitiated technologically then they lose the power base from which to set the markers for progressive socialisation” (1997, p. 68). This statement explicitly links the issue of literacy with the hot button topic of adolescent sexuality. Internet access to sexual content and information is an area of particular focus for policy makers, legislators, regulators, and parents and children, so it puts into sharp relief many of the issues that arise in discussing these matters. At the point that Evans and Butkus were writing their passage, the fear was that technologically-illiterate parents might be unable to prevent their children accessing porn or engaging in cybersexual communication. This is a discourse around literacy, as much as a discourse around porn or sexuality, but another generation later it is the adolescents of the mid-1990s who are the parents of today. This cohort of parents is technologically literate, and their fears are more likely to focus on the internet’s potential to offer particular kinds of sexual information for enquiring adolescents, rather than upon their ignorance of these matters. Understandably, parents do not share a uniform perspective on these risks, and the discourses they use in discussing these literacies with their children (or not) both reflect the gender of parent and child, and the age of the child.

A 2013 interview with 14-16 year old adolescent male, ‘Sam’, gives some idea of how these sexual and sociocultural literacies dovetail with technological competence:

Interviewer: And what about porn, do people get upset by porn at all or ..?

Sam: Well, I obviously watch it and all my mates watch it but yeah, it’s … I always stick to my phone, I guess, with that one. I don’t use it on the computer, I guess, it’s a lot easier.

Interviewer: Is that ‘cause your parents would check the sites or ..?

Sam: Yeah, my dad’s actually found me watching porn on the history twice. It’s pretty embarrassing but I guess he understands.

Interviewer: (Chuckling) So how did he handle that or is that …?

This beginning of an extended extract is from some recent research, as yet unpublished, around “The meaning of online problematic situations for Australian children” (in line with a comparative qualitative study involving nine European countries, Smahel & Wright [eds], 2014). Sam was talking to me as part of an individual interview although some of his friends had raised the issue of pornography in an earlier focus group. It is likely that some report of this exchange had reached Sam prior to our discussion and provided a context within which the teens had decided it was okay to discuss these matters. In Sam’s case, as the story developed, it became clear that Sam’s father allied himself with his adolescent son and used the exchange as an opportunity for ‘male bonding’ in the face of the constructed sensibilities of Sam’s mother:

Sam: He handled it well, he just said that make sure you delete your history and just cover your tracks ’cause obviously ’cause this is when I didn’t have a Desktop, this is when I had a laptop, it was like a … it was actually a family laptop …

Interviewer: Oh, I see.

Sam: … and that’s why dad, he didn’t get angry, he just said make sure you know you delete and do it properly and then that’s pretty much … yeah, he didn’t get too angry at me but.

Interviewer: So I mean it seems that most parents [you know] accept it?

Sam: Yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah and see it as a normal part of life.

Sam: Yeah but I don’t even know if it’s illegal or not but I just … everyone goes on and I go on it so.

In this exchange it becomes clear that Sam’s father constructs his son’s competency in deleting the history of his internet use as the appropriate literacy when accessing pornography. Given his father’s active collusion in Sam’s ability to access pornography without concerning his mother, the discourse of greatest import to Sam is no longer his father’s attitude, or the implication that it’s acceptable to consume porn so long as that behaviour is not evident to other people, but the potential illegality of accessing porn below the age of majority (and, in Sam’s case, below the age of consent). It is concerning that this teenager may have confused the well-rehearsed warnings to adolescents that sexting can be (and has been) construed as the creation of child pornography, even when both parties are consenting and the images are produced for private use in the context of a relationship (Albury & Crawford, 2012). The muddling of discourses around the illegality of some sexting, minors’ access to pornography, and the state’s classification of media content, might inhibit young people from talking with others if they encounter sexual material online that concerns or troubles them. In the case of Sam and his father, it is clear that the father’s approach is one of acceptance, rather than censure, so the channels of communication between the two have been left open if Sam were to wish to talk to his dad about such matters at some time in the future.

The different discourses that emerge around children’s access to online pornography are highlighted in the contrast between Sam’s experience, and that recounted by Henry and his mother, Lisa, both of whom were interviewed as part of a different project a decade earlier. Lisa is talking here about an encounter with Henry (17 at the time of the interview), some years earlier, at a point where he was openly accessing pornography online. It may be relevant to this vignette that Lisa was a single parent at the time, thus raising Henry in a household without the constant presence of a father figure:

Lisa: It doesn’t bother me at all. If he wants to do that then he can do it because he’ll get sick of it and I think initially it was “let’s see what we can do”. I remember once, he called me in and says “Mum, come and look at her boobs” and I looked at it and I said “it’s disgusting” or something and walked away and he laughed his head off. But I’ve never come in [lately] and found him looking at that stuff … It’s just not something that I’m … really worried about. It’s up to him. (First cited in Holloway et al., 2004)

Lisa’s recollection of this event, and her attitude to it, is helpfully counterpointed by Henry’s perspective. In a separate interview (neither mother nor son were present at the other’s interview), Donell Holloway asked Henry whether he visited adult sites on the Internet:

Henry: Like porn and stuff? Not really. I probably did when I was a bit younger but it’s not really very exciting.

Interviewer: That was when you first got it [the Internet] or when?

Henry: Yeah, [two to three years earlier] all your friends come around and you check out the sites. It’s nothing exciting anymore.

It is notable here that Henry constructs the consumption of pornography as (at least partially) a social activity, even a bonding activity, between the members of his younger-teen male social circle. Henry constructs porn as no longer serving that purpose now that he’s 17: “It’s nothing exciting anymore”. The digital literacy that enabled Henry to watch porn as a 14 year old was soon overlaid by gendered social messages around who constitutes the socially appropriate people with whom to share porn-viewing. Mothers are inappropriate co-viewers while friend-based consumption is appropriate. It’s possible to argue, however, that Henry’s mother Lisa seems comparatively comfortable with, and accepting of, Henry’s porn consumption. This may be one reason why Henry’s mates chose Henry’s home as a place to watch porn. At the same time as providing an “exciting” focus for a gathering of young male adolescents, it is likely that Lisa’s tacit enabling of access to a subversive commodity would have enhanced Henry’s status in his group. This vignette indicates the wide a range of social literacies at play in this example of one aspect of digital competence.

Digital literacies in encountering risky online material

In a survey of 400 randomly selected Australian children (aged 9-16) and the parent most involved with their internet use, following the methodology outlined in Green et al. (2011, p. 69), the given percentages of children (from the 11-16 year old cohort) said they had the digital literacies and safety skills listed below:

Table 1: AU kids’ digital literacies and safety skills

11-12 years old 13-16 years old
% who say they can: Boys Girls Boys Girls All
Bookmark a website 84 80 90 92 88
Block messages from someone you don’t want to hear from 63 72 92 81 80
Change privacy settings on a social network profile 58 62 82 87 76
Find information on how to use the internet safely 67 62 79 83 76
Compare different websites to decide if information is true 67 56 71 77 70
Block unwanted adverts or junkmail/spam 65 47 79 72 69
Delete the record of which sites you have visited 57 39 78 70 65
Change filter preferences 26 13 54 37 37
Average number of skills 4.6 4.2 6.1 5.9 5.4

(From: Green et al. 2011, p. 17)

This older view of digital literacies is in terms, arguably, more of keystrokes than ideas, and addresses key competencies identified as helping to keep children safe online, thus minimising their risk of harm. Across the cohort of Australian children there was an average of 5.4 skills per child. This was more than for any other population in Europe, apart from Finland. The average score for European children was 4.2 skills. At the same time, the differences in age and gender are both relevant and indicative. The proportion of children with a given skill rises with age and experience, but the relative proportion of each gendered cohort possessing a given skill is likely to reflect relevant social contexts. Thus it is tempting to speculate that the skill of deleting “the record of which sites you have visited”, claimed by 57% of boys aged 11-12 and 39% of girls, may represent the kinds of competencies taught to Sam by his dad in equivalent kinds of circumstances. At the same time the capacity to “Change privacy settings on a social network profile” is the only literacy where girls perform more strongly than boys in both age cohorts and may reflect girls’ stronger engagement with social network sites and parental and educators’ concerns to ensure that they understand the importance of keeping aspects of their lives out of the public domain.

This examination of Australian children’s skills and competencies indicates that a “competency” has some similarities with the concept of a “technology”, in that it is socially constructed (MacKenzie & Wajcman 1999). A competency has, as Wajcman (1994) argues regarding technology, a range of levels. In some ways, the technical element of a competency is its least relevant aspect. Technical elements, Gilster’s keystokes (1998), are only implicated through the application of relevant knowledge. Knowledge results from social processes and is consequently never neutral. Instead, such social processes reflect a range of dynamics around access to technology, power and gender. Even when levels of technical competencies and skills may appear equivalent, the contexts within which they are sited, and the discourses within which they are couched, reflect the speaker’s sociocultural position.

Concepts of risk and harm are similarly socially contextualised. The AU Kids Online survey, which gave rise to the data represented in Table 1, also included an “Open comments box” in which child respondents were able to respond to the prompt “What things on the internet bother people about your age?” Importantly, this box preceded questions about a range of risks of relevance to policy debates and aspects of content classification and legislation. Consequently, the child’s response was more likely to be ‘top of mind’ rather than a perception primed by previous questions. Within the Australian respondent cohort, 71% of children answered this question. This was a significantly larger proportion than across the EU Kids Online cohort (of 25,142 child respondents), where the relevant percentage was 39%. Interestingly, Australian children’s responses were more in line with those from Scandinavian nations than the English-speaking European nations of the UK and Ireland. The 71% Australian response ranks alongside the highest-scoring EU countries, Denmark (73%) and Norway (67%).

The response by Australian children (9-16) did have some specific features, however. They were a little more likely to volunteer bullying and other conduct issues as their first or only concern: 30% of children leaving a comment did this, compared to 27% volunteering pornography as their first or only concern (Green et al., 2013). Some raised issues which were not directly canvassed elsewhere in the research, partly because they are not generally raised as a policy issue by regulators or legislators. Thus “news coverage” is traditionally exempt from classification systems in Western nations (ALRC 2012, p. 98), yet such coverage can impact child viewers (Cunningham 1992) and evidently had a range of impacts upon the respondents to the AU Kids Online survey. Examples of some disturbing content that may distress children but which generally remains unvoiced in the concern around children’s exposure to pornography and social aggression (“bullying”) include: Seeing pictures of animals being killed for meat. (Girl, 11, Australia);Show how they kill animals like cutting them in half while there still alive. (Boy, 12, Australia); Explicit and real life violence (not acted or scripted). (Boy, 16, Australia). These examples (cited in Green et al. 2013) demonstrate that children are sometimes disturbed by materials that are not typically included in discourses around risk.

In addition to being asked what things on the internet might bother people about their age, Australian children were asked whether they themselves had been bothered by anything on the internet in the previous twelve months. Somewhat unexpectedly for the research team, Australian children were more likely than children in any one of 25 European nations to say that they were bothered in the previous 12 months by something that they encountered online. 30% of respondents to the AU Kids Online survey said this (n = 400), compared with 12% of respondents to the EU Kids Online survey overall (n = 25,142). Although the sample sizes are very different, the methodology adopted in identifying and recruiting a random sample should make the cohorts essentially equivalent (Green et al, 2011, p. 69) and thus the two-and-a-half times greater likelihood that an Australian child respondent would say they’d been bothered might indicate a genuine difference in their experience: along with a possible difference in levels of digital and social literacy.

Notwithstanding the similarities in methodological approach and rigour, it is difficult to control for more or less verbal cultural contexts and for differences in social expectations. These differences might mean that Australian children are particularly encouraged to verbalise their views compared with the majority of children responding to the EU Kids Online survey. If Australian children were more vocal, more opinionated, and more socially literate in terms of their expectations around how they should be treated, and the predictability and acceptability of materials and interactions they encounter online, then these characteristics might make them more likely to identify and say they’ve felt bothered. An acknowledged difference between the expectation of an event, encounter or engagement and the experience of that event, encounter or engagement would help create a sense of feeling bothered.

This is not to argue for a laissez-faire attitude to the distress that children might feel when they say they have felt bothered, but to indicate instead that risks are contextualised. What bothers one child may challenge their construction of the world and the society in which they live, but it does not necessarily harm them. Indeed, exposure to unsettling online experiences might constitute an important aspect of maturing as a socially and digitally literate young adult, and may help build resilience (Green & Brady 2014). What is risky for one child, in one age group, may not be risky for that child when they’re older; or for a different child in the same young age group. It is within this context that some parents and families develop a domestic culture that supports risk-taking and discussion, if appropriate, as part of developing both digital and social literacy.

Table 2: Australian/European comparison of risk-rankings (with relevant % of cohort)


Ranking/26 countries

% Australian kids saying this

% mean/25 European nations


Personal date misuse




Green et al.,2011, p. 28; Livingstone et al., 2011, p. 101
Bullying online




Green et al., 2011, p. 64
Seeing sexual images online




Green et al., 2011, p. 62
Accessing potentially harmful user-generated images




Green et al., 2011, p. 65
Sexting: seeing/receiving sexual messages online




Green et al., 2011, p. 64
In-person meeting with new people first met online




Green et al., 2011, p. 65

As can be seen from the left hand column, in 4 of the 6 risk areas specifically investigated as part of the AU Kids Online survey, Australian children’s responses ranked in the top six out of 26 countries. Only in the categories of “Sexting: sending/receiving sexual images online” and “In-person meeting with new people first met online” did Australian children’s responses indicate an average, or less than average, exposure to these risks. Although parents’ fears and policy makers’ and legislators’ concerns tend to focus on children’s access to pornography and ‘stranger danger’, it is often other children’s conduct that causes the distress described by children in the AU Kids Online survey. On club penguin/ a guy came and said / get out of here you person/ I was very terrified. (Boy, 9, Australia); People can say harmful things. People can hear or see something that is inappropriate. People can log into your account if they have your password. If they have your email address they could make you an account and say harmful things. (Girl, 9, Australia) (All previously cited in Green et al. 2013). Arguably, it is social literacies as much as digital literacies that help in these contexts. Resilience, and relevant self-talk subsequent to encountering unwanted experiences or materials thus becomes a digital literacy, as well as a social one. Without an effective way of managing that problematic experiences encountered online, users may lose digital confidence and avoid internet engagement and/or learning new skills and competencies.

Toddlers, tablets and the age of child internet users

Within the past three years, an entirely new cohort of internet users has taken their place online (Holloway et al. 2013). The advent of ‘touch and swipe’ access has meant that children without the fine motor skills required to operate a keyboard and click a mouse can now turn on digital equipment, open programs and run apps. This acquisition of digital literacies by under-5s, some at the pre-verbal communication stage, raises a series of questions and has prompted the formulation of a range of new research priorities.

Table 3: an overview of research into the online engagement of different age groups of children

The Legal perspective of childhood is “everyone under 18”
0-5 A highly contested arena with the ‘touch and swipe’ generation a new cohort of actors. There is very little research into toddlers’ and
older pre-schoolers’ online activities.
5-12 This is an emerging key cohort, generally under-researched but increasingly active online.
9-16 The EU Kids Online/AU Kids Online age cohort, research into the 9s-to-preteens was sparse when the project was first proposed in 2005
14-18 The research heartland for young people’s online engagement with a comparative wealth of studies going back to the early years of domestic
internet access.

The digital literacy in each of these age groups is very different, and there can also be immense differences within each age group. Further, some age groups have historically been the focus of more research activity than others, so more is known about the acquisition and development of digital literacies by such children.

0-5: ‘Toddlers and tablets, and to some extent pre-schoolers’ internet use generally, constitutes the new media/cultural studies research frontier. It is an area of intense debate, particularly given current guidelines based on decades-old Paediatric recommendations around screen time. This is driven by a medical agenda and largely ignores the evidence base derived from media studies research;

5-12: This age group is particularly active in digital worlds such as Minecraft, Club Penquin and Moshi Monsters. Digital play in such virtual worlds is a fertile field for new research. There is a comparative absence of research upon children in this age group compared with older primary kids;

9-16: These children have historically been the key focus for policy and regulatory concern, and for educational initiatives. The ground-breaking EU Kids Online research was funded by the European Commission with a view to creating an evidence base for policy formation regarding children’s risks and opportunities online;

14-18: This can be a contentious cohort because of their liminal position in terms of their rights to sexual citizenship; 16 is generally constructed as the legal age of consent for full sexual intercourse. The positioning of these young people as minors (under 18) restricts their autonomy, even after they are legally permitted to be sexually active. Australian federal legislation constructs some digital and media practices common within intimate sexual relationships as producing child pornography, where this involves making images of people who are, or appear to be, under 18. This environment makes it illegal for under-18s to engage in consensual sexting, even though it is both legal and a normal dating practice among adults (Albury et al. 2013).

As part of the EU Kids Online research project, researchers in the EU Kids Online network collected relevant research from their own countries and language groups relating to children’s digital activities. These studies were then assessed for validity and reliability. Studies judged to be robust were included within a database of EU research. This database is accessible online, but the information held about children in each of the age groups is summarised below. It indicates that 15 is the peak age cohort for studies about internet activities and digital literacy.

Figure 1: A database of European research concerning kids online, by age of research participant

Childrens' Digital Literacies_1

(From Ólafsson et al. 2013, p. 20)

As can be seen, children under one had only been included in eight studies at this point, yet this age cohort is increasingly going online in both supervised/co-present and semi-autonomous capacities. One of the first sequences on the internet to raise issues concerning pre-verbal internet users was: “A magazine is an iPad that does not work” (YouTube 2011, https :// ). At the time of writing this paper, these images of a pre-verbal baby in nappies, trying and failing to touch and swipe magazines, but clearly delighting in and capable of using an iPad, had garnered almost half a million (4,472,893) hits. Not all commentators react positively to the content, however. Some appear particularly challenged by the video’s closing caption: “For my 1 year old daughter, a magazine is an iPad that does not work. It will remain so for her whole life. Steve Jobs has coded a part of her OS”. Leaving aside the well-established finding of media studies that new media (e.g. digital) tends to run alongside old media (e.g. paper-based) without fully replacing it, thus indicating the continuing relevance of magazines, comments on the YouTube post provide an insight into the perspectives of people who see very young children’s digital competencies as evidence of poor parenting. Such responses to the video tend to showcase the judgemental nature of some commentators’ viewpoints and cut to the heart of the controversy around very young children’s engagement online: “You are so wrong to blame Steve Jobs for your inability to car [sic] for your child.”

The cited post aligns itself, perhaps unknowingly, with a key recommendation of the American Academy of Paediatrics (1999; Brown, 2011). Their responsible working group argues that children under two should have no screen time whatever (Brown, 2011, p. 1040), and that older children should use screens for no more than two hours per day (Strasburger, et al, 2013, p. 959). Rather than engaging with the issue of whether such early digital literacy is beneficial, and there are some indicators that it may be (Bittman et al, 2011; Neumann, 2014), commentators instead swap opinions on parenting, such as this response to the previous post: “Not quite as wrong as you are to claim to have any knowledge whatsoever about how this person does or does not care for their child.”

The imbrication of social judgements upon parents’ child-raising skills within these discourses around digital literacy highlights the contention of this paper that children’s digital literacies are a contested space. It also demonstrates that such literacies are socially constructed. These debates raise issues around the social construction of childhood within the context of digital access, competency and autonomy. Who counts as a child, in which circumstances, and what level of autonomy is attributable to the minor concerned? (Apparently, with infants, parents are constructed as the sole responsible party.) The exchanges also illustrate that what we know about children’s digital literacies, risks and opportunities is a product of our ways of looking at these matters and brings adults’ constructions into conflict with those of the children themselves.


Digital literacies are embedded in ways of behaving that reflect age, gender and relative power. They have the potential to bring children into conflict with the many groups of adults who regulate their online activities. Digital literacies involve technical knowledge, but involve far more than matters of keystrokes. Indeed, keystrokes are simply the starting point for being seen as possessing a digital literacy. Adult authority tends to define what constitutes an appropriate literacy and the when, what and why which define its responsible exercise. A child’s arguments and activities (sometimes covert, sometimes censured) help demonstrate the broader social literacies that encompass digital activities, and the fact that these literacies are forged in, and respond to, a broader communication context.


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This presentation builds upon an ARC Discovery Project: Professor Lelia Green, Professor Robyn Quin Family Internet: theorising domestic Internet consumption, production and use within Australian families. ARC-Discovery DP0211751 (ECU 2002-2004)

The EU Kids Online network (led by Professor Sonia Livingstone, LSE)

ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation: Risk and Representation program.

A range of co-researchers have been involved in work on these materials used including Professors John Hartley and Catharine Lumby, Drs Donell Holloway and Danielle Brady, and PhD candidate Kylie Stevenson.

About the Author

Lelia Green is Professor of Communications in the School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University. She is the first Chief Investigator on nine Australian Research Council grants, and a foundation researcher within the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Creative Industries and Innovation. She is the author of The Internet (Berg, 2010) and of Technoculture (Allen & Unwin, 2002).

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