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Europe invests in research on the impact of digitalisation on children and young people – the Digital Generation

In these uncertain times of the COVID19 crisis, people are shifting their lives online in an unprecedented manner. Schools and universities are closed and move to e-learning, people are teleworking where possible, and we are connecting with our loved-ones through digital tools. Digitalisation is offering many solutions during this period of self-isolation but how does it impact children and young people’s everyday lives? Not everyone has the same experience with digitalisation and where it can be beneficial for some, others seem to suffer from the harmful effects.

A new European research project called DigiGen is developing significant knowledge about how children and young people, a group growing up today often referred to as the digital generation, use and are affected by the technological transformations in their everyday lives. They need skills and competences that will enable them to navigate and live with the ever increasing presence of technology. This need for digital skills and competences should be addressed in order to promote inclusivity of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) participation and avoid the risk of widening the gap between children from advantaged and disadvantaged groups. Considering the risk of widening the divide, the DigiGen research is uncovering why and how some children and young people benefit from ICT use while others seem to be impacted negatively.

The three-year project, which started four months ago, is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and has four focus areas covering different aspects of children’s lives: educational institutions, family (the home), leisure time, and civic participation. DigiGen is taking a closer look at how ICT may impact the health, lifestyles, and well-being of the digital generation for each of the research areas in order to develop effective social, educational, health and online safety policies and practices.

Through the active involvement of children and young people, the project is designed to generate insights that have the potential to impact upon developing effective policies and practices across Europe. The research project is child and youth-driven and includes the use of innovative quantitative and qualitative methods and in-depth case studies.

The overall aim of the project is to contribute to the achievement of several child-focused Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), more specifically improving health and well-being (SDG 3), expanding educational opportunity and quality education (SDG 4), achieving gender equity (SDG 5), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), tackling inequality (SDG 10) and sustainable, safe and inclusive cities (SDG 11).

DigiGen is a consortium which is made up of researchers from eight academic institutions from Norway, Greece, the UK, Austria, Spain, Germany, Romania and Estonia as well as COFACE Families Europe. The selection of consortium members brings together a unique combination of European varieties in terms of ICT landscapes. Moreover, the members come from countries whose relationship with the European Union vary in nature and duration. The cross-disciplinary team of researchers will enhance cooperation between home, schools and the wider community to ensure safe and productive ways of using ICTs.

COFACE is leading the part of the project which focuses on the societal impact and scientific and public engagement. Working closely with the consortium and various stakeholders, COFACE’s role is to ensure the visibility and expected impact of the project by coordinating the dissemination activities and implementing an effective impact strategy.

The DigiGen website is now available and the project is online on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. The first working papers of the project will be published towards the end of this year, however, the majority of the research results will become available from the second half of 2021 until the end of the project in November 2022.

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