The current generation of young children has been described as “digital natives”, having been born into a ubiquitous digital media environment. They are envisaged as educationally independent of the guided interaction provided by “digital immigrants”: parents and teachers. This paper uses data from the multiples waves of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) to study the effect of various media on children’s development of vocabulary and traditional literacy. Previous research has suggested that time spent watching television is associated with less time spent reading, and ultimately, with inferior educational outcomes. The early studies of the “new” digital media (computers, games consoles, mobile phones, the Internet, etc.) assumed these devices would have similar effects on literacy outcomes to those associated with television. Moreover, these earlier studies relied on poorer measures of time spent in media use and usually did not control for the context of the child’s media use. Fortunately, LSAC contains measures of access to digital devices; parental mediation practices; the child’s use of digital devices as recorded in time use diaries; direct measures of the child’s passive vocabulary; and teachers’ ratings of the child’s literacy. The analysis presented shows the importance of the parental context framing the child’s media use in promoting the acquisition of vocabulary, and suggests that computer (but not games) use is associated with more developed language skills. Independently of these factors, raw exposure to television is not harmful to learning, as previously thought.
Field of Research
200199 Communication and Media Studies not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective
970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
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