The ICT are generally valued in terms of skill development, learning and future employability of young generations. Educational and training institutions are getting equipped with ICT tools and educators are trained for designing activities aimed at digital literacy and for making use of media for educational purposes. The time children and young people spend on ICT has been increasing in school, at home and for leisure. However, research on the impact of ICT on health, lifestyles, wellbeing, safety and security has identified potential threats. Moreover, the quantity and quality of digital media use vary accordingly to family backgrounds, with the risk of widening the educational divide between children from favoured and disadvantaged groups. The challenge is to develop a solid and independent multidisciplinary and longitudinal knowledge base in relation to the 0 to 18 years old age group that explains under which conditions harmful versus beneficial effects occur so that effective social, educational, health and online safety policies, practices and market regulation can be developed.
a) Research and Innovation action
Proposals should assess the online behaviour of children and young people as well as their use of digital content and devices by socio-economic, gender and age group, with attention to motivations for using ICT at home, for leisure and in schools or training institutions. Robust methodologies for measuring and explaining long-term impacts in areas such as skills and competencies (i.e. digital and media literacy, innovation and creativity, learning and socio-emotional competencies and more specific labour market relevant skills), wellbeing and (mental) health or other relevant aspects of brain development should be developed and tested across EU level. Methodologies should focus on understanding why and how some children and adolescents benefit from ICT use while others seem to be impacted negatively. Evidence-based models identifying and analysing at-risk groups can be developed. Proposals should take into account diversity as appropriate (age, cultural, social and economic background, gender etc.) and address the impact of ICT use on education inequalities. (Lack of) equity of access to ICT across social groups should also be considered. Children and young people should be active collaborators in the project.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
b) Coordination and Support action
This coordination and support action should aim at the establishment of a Pan-European platform to co-ordinate research activities in the EU Member States and Associated Countries with the purpose of developing a knowledge base, and filling current gaps, into how children and young people behave and interact online as well as the risks they may encounter while online. Proposals should pay particular attention to the vulnerability of children and young people in the digital environment and propose solutions for building online resilience, while also taking cultural and gender-related issues into account. Through the proposed platform, researchers across different countries, disciplines and approaches should share existing knowledge, fill research gaps, build capacity and work towards a consensual framework for future work. Based on the evidence base, policy recommendations should be developed on how to best protect and ensure positive online experiences for children and young people. In addition, emerging issues such as the rise of hate speech and radicalisation should be addressed.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 1.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Explanatory models will inform relevant stakeholders and practitioners on the long-term effects of ICT on child development and on practices that maximise risks (risk factors), minimise risks (resilience factors) and maximise benefits (enhancing factors). The action will contribute to better regulation (e.g. labelling, evaluation of ICT educational tools, protection of online users) and to a safer and more beneficial use of digital technologies at home, for leisure and in educational settings by children and young people. It will formulate recommendations in support of national and European policies in the field. The action will enhance cooperation between schools and families (school-community partnership) in ensuring safe and productive ways of using ICTs. It will also improve statistical data, generate innovative quantitative and qualitative methods as needed, and expand the knowledge base on in-depth case studies.
Illustration Photo: Young adults with smartphones (CC0 Creative Commons from Pixabay.com)