Posted 6 months ago

On 10th October 2018 Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics published a blog post on the LSE Parenting for a Digital Future site about six myths about children in the digital age. 

But what does this post mean for primary schools and how should they respond?

Colin Green, Director of Education has produced a series of three articles to help schools flesh out the best way to use this research to their advantage.

The first in this series looks at:


Debunking the myth of digital immigrants and digital natives. 

In Professor Livingstone’s article she quite rightly suggests that the old adage that children are the digital natives and their parents who grew up in the days before the Internet was omnipresent are the digital immigrants, is incorrect and an oversimplification. She quite rightly makes the point that children are frequently confident and the most experimental online, demonstrating a willingness to try things out and learn from experience rather than querying what will happen before they dare to hit a key.


How are teachers and pupils different?

In my experience of training teachers to use educational technology and to navigate the online world alongside that of teaching children, I certainly recognize some of these behaviours. The children rarely need to be told or shown what to do, whereas some of the adults are less confident and assured. The children certainly show willingness to explore and experiment. The teachers write a lot of notes, the children learn by doing and repetition. The children are also happy to show and share their skills. We often had children in our classes that were our digital leaders who would quite happily show staff how to overcome some of the technical issues that they may have faced. I also recall a Year 4 child who found great joy in inverting the screen display to the frustration of others! This however masks the whole story and there are two key points to raise.


Not all children are the same

Firstly, this willingness of children to engage with IT and to be expert in their navigation of devices is no more accurate for all children as it is to suggest all boys struggle with writing and girls are no good at mathematics or physics. They are stereotypes that are unhelpful. There are many children that do not have an inkling about how to navigate their devices and I’ve come across several who have a phobia of computers and devices (their parents’ expression – not mine). Navigation and manipulation of devices for some needs just as much teaching as any other skill we expect of our children. There are course many teachers with the most amazing technical skills!


Is it technology or children in charge of their online activity?

Furthermore, and more importantly however, as Professor Livingstone points out in her article, skill in using and navigating devices is not itself the end point. The key is that getting onto the Internet is one thing, navigating is another and understanding, keeping safe and fully enjoying the benefits something else. In my experience children need considerable support in this aspect. This support needs to be offered by the adults who guide them. Those who teach them, whether that is their parents or their teachers. So many children are not as adept at making conscious choices as we believe. Too many are guided by the technology. How does my six-year-old grandson choose the videos he watches? How does he know about Dan TDM, Dennis or Sketch? So many of his choices are guided by the persuasive technology that he uses, the autoplay functionality of platforms such as Youtube, the suggestions that are made are not necessarily his conscious decisions but those of the anonymous algorithms that guide his experiences. Whilst the six-year-old manages his devices at a level of conscious competence his online choices are not.


What should YOU be doing?

So, what do schools and parents need to do? They need to recognize that not all children are confident users of devices or the Internet. That those who are the most capable are invariably exploring a world that was neither designed with them in mind nor necessarily enables them to enjoy the full benefits nor stay safe. The conclusions are simple we need to teach children both the digital skills required in today’s world and a full and comprehensive programme of digital citizenship that builds their understanding of the online world progressively and over time.



The education for a connected world framework published by UKCCIS and flagged in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018 guidance (Annex C) provides a good starting point for schools to meet the needs of their children. Implementing such a framework supported by children having real opportunities for first-hand experience will bring huge benefits.

This is why we have drafted our scheme of work based on the framework utilizing good quality content and the opportunity to use online communication and collaboration tools to develop skills, knowledge and understanding through first-hand experience guided and supported by teachers and parents.

For more information around our scheme of work, please contact us directly.