The Australian Research Council announced the establishment of a new research centre tasked with investigating the effects of digital technology on children.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child will be funded with  $34.9 million from the Morrison Government and will be based at the Queensland University of Technology and led by Professor Susan Danby.

The research centre will also conduct a longitudinal study of the digital lives of Australian children from birth to eight years of age to develop a better understanding of how children live in a digital world.

The centre's research will also involve experts from education, health and digital and social connectedness, who will aim to produce policy guidelines to better enable students' digital learning.

Additional policy recommendations and guidelines would focus on technologies to help ensure children are learning in safe digital environments.

Other issues that the centre will tackle include acknowledging the realities of a child's life in a digital world and practical guidance for families navigating digital environments, as well as the development of open access resources and professional training.

"Through the centre, Australia will be better able to respond to national issues and problems related to young children and digital technology including amount of screen time use, social media and digital gaming, and online safety, and develop a better understanding of how children live in a digital world," Professor Danby said in a statement.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan noted in a statement that the centre would also undertake a family cohort study involving 300 families, run children's technology laboratories and lead research programs to improve knowledge of the general effects of digital technology on children.

"Digital technology can improve our quality of life and drive economic growth, but we need to shape how our kids grow up in a digital world," Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said in a statement. "If our children can build digital skills in a healthy environment, we will set them up well to use technology confidently and cleverly in their adult lives and careers."

In addition, the program will benefit from research collaborations between Queensland University of Technology and national and international experts at five Australian universities, as well as more than 30 academic and industry partner organisations from Australia, Europe, Asia and America.

Through these partnerships, the centre will also receive more than $32.2 million in cash and in-kind support, in addition to the funds made available by the government.

The research will also involve government and non-government agencies, industry in Australia and overseas, policy-makers and philanthropic groups, according to Professor Danby's statement.

Researchers from Australian universities collaborating with QUT in the new centre are Curtin University, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University, University of Queensland and University of Wollongong.




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