Secret Lives of Children in the Digital Age
Disruptive Devices and Resourceful Learners
Published: December 2021
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Published: December 2021

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Published: December 2021
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6" x 9"
Language: English

A 2023 SPE Outstanding Book Award Winner
2023 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award

Secret Lives of Children in the Digital Age: Disruptive Devices and Resourceful Learners
offers an examination of the impact on children, their families and their teachers, as digital technologies and new literacy practices have rapidly transformed how children learn, play and communicate. While ease of access to enormous knowledge bases presents many benefits and advantages, mobile screen technologies are often perceived by parents and teachers as disruptive and worrisome. Developed from a wide range of the authors’ research over the past decade to an examination of remote learning during the COVID 19 pandemic, this book posits that while teachers, parents and governments are focused on protecting children, what is often neglected is children’s own agency and capacity to engage with mobile technologies in ways that support them in pursuing their own interests, pleasures and learning. This text works to disrupt boundaries in research, policy and practice, between home and school, and across virtual and actual worlds, positioning children as both users of media texts and coproducers of digitally mediated knowledge, with peers, family and teachers.

Secret Lives of Children in the Digital Age brings together over a decade of shared research, conversations, writing and friendships across diverse geographies. Over the past decade, digital technologies have rapidly transformed how children learn, play and communicate. Tablet devices such as iPads are now ubiquitous in the lives of many children. Such devices are easy to use and provide multimodal options (i.e. operable via touch, speech, and icons, as well as conventional text). Users do not need to be conventionally literate to have access to powerful search engines, social media platforms, a range of ‘apps’ and games, or to be able to share their own creations on publication venues such as YouTube, TikTok and more. While such ease of access can present many benefits and advantages when positioned in relation to children’s use, but this access is not without concern, since mobile screen technologies are often perceived by parents and teachers as disruptive and worrisome, with popular media ramping up fears via publication of sensational articles.

Secret Lives of Children in the Digital Age contributes to research on digital literacies, and offers a pedagogical examination of digital possibilities for bringing playfulness and innovation into learning.

Perfect for courses such as: Introduction to Literacy Research | Qualitative Research Methods | Early Literacy | Research Methods in Language and Literacy | Introduction to Qualitative Research | New and Digital Literacies | Digital Media Education | Theories of Language and Literacy

Table of Contents:


Dennis Sumara

Chapter 1:

Chapter 2:
Living in the iWorld: Two Literacy Researchers Reflect on the Changing Texts and Literacy Practices of Childhood

Chapter 3:
Early Literacy Instruction and Complexity

Chapter 4:
Rethinking Difference in the iWorld

Chapter 5:
Parents and Teachers, Disrupted

Chapter 6:
Locking Up the iPads: Administrative Controls and Resourceful Teachers

Chapter 7:
Big Brother, Little Sister: Digital Surveillance at Home and at School

Chapter 8:
Secret Lives, Private Spaces, and Social Media

Chapter 9:
A Conclusion: Stumbling Toward the Digital Future

Jill Blackmore

About the Authors


Reviews & Endorsements:

"Teachers and parents frequently express concern about children’s use of technology both in schools and at home. They raise questions about the amount of time children should spend in front of screens, what constitutes appropriate use of digital devices, and whether children are safe when they are online. Laidlaw (Univ. of Alberta, Canada), O’Mara (Deaking Univ., Australia), and Wong (Univ. of Alberta, Canada) show readers how digital devices such as iPads have disrupted stale, more traditional forms of teaching, learning, and engagement that take place in schools and homes today. Through myriad research studies, they demonstrate the positive impact that digital devices have on children’s critical thinking, learning, and growth, even among children with disabilities. The authors address important questions that educators and parents have in terms of what constitutes appropriate technology use; what it means to be literate in today’s digital world; teachers' and parents' roles in this endeavor; and perhaps most importantly, children’s agency as producers and users of digitally mediated knowledge. Rich in research and anecdotes from the authors and teachers, this significant book challenges conventional thinking and practice regarding children’s technology use. It should be widely read."

C. B. Freville, Dominican University for CHOICE, May 2023, Vol. 60, No. 9

“This is a unique book. It makes the personal social and the social personal through reflection on lived digital experience and the findings of more than a decade of research in and about the learning spaces of homes, classrooms, and communities. Rich in data, adventurous in theory, and imaginative in conclusion, this book is a well-selected mix of new and re-printed pieces. It sparks insights about the lives of children born into digital worlds and about parenting and schooling by adults grappling with technological revolution. At once retrospective and prospective, it charts emergent ways of digital being and invites action for fairer futures for all young people. It is a book for re-reading.”

Karen Dooley, Ph.D., Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice, Queensland University of Technology

The Secret Lives of Children in the Digital Age by Linda Laidlaw, Joanne O’Mara, and Suzanna Wong uncovers the lived, felt, and tacit ways that children move through digital spaces without much fuss, rather with energy, enthusiasm, even passion. Focusing in on Lego robotics kits and story play videos, the authors string together a series of small stories that collectively paint a vivid and vibrant picture of children’s rich daily digital encounters. It is a book that you can sit with and linger over and it is an absolute pleasure to read.”

Jennifer Rowsell, Professor of Literacies and Social Innovation, Co-Deputy Head of School, School of Education, University of Bristol

“In The Secret Lives of Children in the Digital Age: Disruptive Devices and Resourceful Learners, Laidlaw, O’Mara, and Wong masterfully weave together over a decade of data from four research studies that occurred across two continents. Integrating the voices of youth, teachers, parents, caregivers, researchers, and other educational stakeholders, the authors trace the role of technology in youth meaning-making experiences in and beyond school, providing readers with multiple perspectives of the complex nature and transformative possibilities of youth digital practices.”

Sandra Schamroth Abrams, Ph.D., Professor, St. John’s University, USA