First Generation Growing Up Digital

growing up digital

First Generation of Children Growing Up Digital Are Here. The first generation of ‘digi kids’ are struggling with literacy as experts warn against screen time

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Child looks at smartphone at night.

Leading educators, academics and teachers are sounding the alarm over the impact excessive screen time is having on Australian children’s reading, writing and ability to concentrate in school.

A Four Corners investigation has found there are growing fears among education experts. Screen time is contributing to a generation of skim readers with poor literacy, who may struggle to gain employment later in life as low-skilled jobs disappear.

By the age of 12 or 13, up to 30 percent of Australian children’s waking hours are spent in front of a screen, according to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.

Robyn Ewing, a Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Sydney, said this was having a tangible impact on vocabulary and literacy.

“Children who have been sat in front of a screen from a very early age start school with thousands and thousands of words less, vocabulary-ise, than those who have been meaningfully communicated with,” Professor Ewing said.

Four Corners gained exclusive access to the initial results of a national survey of 1,000 teachers and principals conducted by the Gonski Institute.

The survey found excessive screen time had a profound impact on Australian school students over the past five years, making them more distracted and tired, and less ready to learn.

The Growing Up Digital Australia study has been described by its authors as a “call to action” on the excessive screen use “pervasively penetrating the classroom”.

The study lead, Professor Pasi Sahlberg, said while teachers reported there were benefits to technology in the classroom, most also believed that technology was a huge distracting force in young people.

Some teachers even reported students in the classroom were caught browsing porn or “catfishing”, which is using fake identities online.

“Schools are feeling out of their depth in managing these issues and more must be done to support them,” Professor Sahlberg said.

“About 90 percent of teachers in Australia who have answered our survey believe that, compared to three to five years ago, the number of students in their own classrooms with psychological, social or behavioral difficulties and challenges has increased.”

Veronica Sanders, a secondary teacher from Melbourne, has noticed more of her new year 7 students seem to struggle with literacy each year and she believes technology is a big part of the problem.

Ms. Sanders notes that many children coming into the classroom today have had tech devices since infancy and were “handed an iPad when they were making a noise like a young child”.

“They’re constantly consuming for entertainment. But they’re not creating,” she said.

“Vocabulary has definitely decreased and spelling is quite atrocious.”

This has implications for how students are engaging in the classroom.

Are your grandchildren growing up digital?

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