UOW researcher finds not all children are tech savvy

Looking into IT: Professor Sue Bennett says young people are not as tech savvy as we think they are. Picture: PAUL JONES
Looking into IT: Professor Sue Bennett says young people are not as tech savvy as we think they are. Picture: PAUL JONES

The school curriculum may be pushing for a technology revolution in the classroom with the implementation of iPads and laptops, but a University of Wollongong researcher has found not every child is keeping up with the digital age.

Professor Sue Bennett’s research contradicts an American theory that all children are ‘‘digital natives’’ or tech savvy, finding some young people – especially from low socioeconomic backgrounds – using technology mainly for entertainment purposes, despite using various devices in the classroom. 

‘‘Sometimes we just make too many assumptions about what young people can do with technology, because they look like they can use it really well,’’ she said. 

‘‘We assume they can do more than they really can, and that means maybe we don’t teach them some of the things that would be really useful for them to know. Sometimes it’s as basic as teaching [extra functions on Mircrosoft Word].’’

Professor Bennett said parents often had tech skills they thought were not important or may be too restrictive on what technology their child could use at home.

‘‘The influence of parents is really powerful in the home background, and the other side of it is school and what happens at school,’’ Professor Bennett said. 

‘‘It’s about ensuring every child has an opportunity to develop those higher level, more advanced skills.’’

She said using technology in an ‘‘informal’’ environment could have a huge impact on what kids brought to the classroom, but suggested parents – and teachers – needed to go a step further, be ‘‘mindful’’ and encourage children to use technology in more creative ways.

Ways to increase digital literacy

  • Get kids to create a slide show of their holiday, or make one as a gift
  • Make a short film – there are plenty of free and easy-to-use apps available, so the whole family can join in
  • Get them thinking about different ways to search for a subject in Google – for example,  using key words
  • Help your child with a project – look at formatting, ask questions, get them to explain things to you. If you are short on time, just 10 minutes can help.