Young Children's Engagement With Digital Technologies in the Family Context: A Case of Lithuania

Young Children's Engagement With Digital Technologies in the Family Context: A Case of Lithuania

Vilmantė Liubinienė (Kaunas University of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania) and Ramunė Kasperavičienė (Kaunas University of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJSEUS.2018100108

Abstract

Although more and more children engage in daily online activities with digital technologies, the roles that online technologies play in children's lives are still understudied. This article aims at identifying the role of digital devices as well as practices in which young children are engaged at home. It also strives to explore digital literacy practices and to research how these are embedded into the family context. The case study of Lithuania discussed in this article contributes with new knowledge about the local contexts and may help to understand the main problems to be further worked upon with on a global and European scale. The research of young children and their engagement with digital technology in Lithuania comes as part of the EC JRC project “Young Children (0–8) and Digital Technologies.” The findings reveal that although children perceive online technologies and the use of smart devices as entertainment and relaxation, they are not addicted. Several factors affect young children's uses and skills of digital technologies, including family constitution and parental styles.
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Introduction

The results of EU Kids Online in Lithuania show that 86% of children go online every day. According to the report, 9–16-year old children seem to have developed a wide range of skills and are good explorers of the internet (EU kids online, Factsheet Lithuania 2014)). However, Lithuanian children report a higher percentage of risks than the average of their European peers (LSE Media and communication. Lithuania, 2016). Lithuania also belongs to the “unprotected networkers” group of countries, which calls for a deeper study of the youngest children (0–8) and the context in which their first encounters with the digital technologies happen. The EU Kids Online project director, professor Sonia Livingstone, is the one who has been conducting, coordinating, updating this comparative 25-country pan-European quantitative and qualitative research since 2006. In-depth interviews have targeted mainly 9- to 16-year-olds in 9 countries (EU Kids Online 2014). EU Kids Online survey, the Net Children Go Mobile project (Mascheroni & Ólafsson, 2014) as well as numerous other studies (Dervin, 2018; Garvis & Lemon, 2016; Marsh et al. 2017; O’Connor & Fotakopoulou, 2016; Stephen & Edwards 2018) show that children go online at an increasingly younger age, with tablets and smartphones highly contributing to the overall online socialisation process. This is in line with a recent report by OFCOM (2016) which shows that the use of the tablet is increasing rapidly among UK children aged between 5 and 7 years old. Younger children are also particularly vulnerable to online problematic experiences, since their “lack of technical, critical and social skills may pose [a greater] risk” (Livingstone et al., 2011, p. 3).

In spite of the substantial increase in usage of digital technologies by very young children and the increasing amount of research on the 0–8 year age group all over Europe (Chaudron et al., 2015, 2018; Daniela & Rudolfa, 2018; Dias et al., 2016; Marsh et al., 2017a, 2017b; Mascheroni & Ólafsson, 2014; Stephen & Edwards 2018), the youngest children and their engagement with digital technologies in Lithuania are still not sufficiently researched. Therefore, the case study of Lithuania to be discussed in this article will add new knowledge about the local context as compared with global and European trends and will help to understand the main problems to be further worked on and the main trends to be followed.

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