A scientist’s opinion: interview with Marco Hubert on children’s ‘digital maturity’

Interview with Marco Hubert, project coordinator of DIGYMATEX, an EU project which aims to understand children’s so called “digital maturity”.

What is digital maturity? Can this concept be applied to adults as well?

Marco Hubert profileMarco Hubert: The concept of digital maturity goes beyond measures of digital skills or literacy. It is in fact a dynamic concept that changes over time and describes the overall ability of children to assess and regulate their behaviour on when, how, and in which contexts the use of digital technologies is either beneficial or harmful to them. That is why even though the project focuses on children 9–18 years old, we expect that we will also be able to apply modified versions of our “Digital Maturity Inventory” (DIMI)  to adults.

What is the goal of DIGYMATEX?

Marco Hubert: I believe that our project innovatively contributes to a better understanding of the complexity of human (including children’s) behaviour in a digitised world. Digital maturity helps to understand the capabilities and attitudes which enable individuals to use digital technologies in ways which support both individual development (growth) and integration into society (adjustment). We aim to gather data on the usefulness and need of a digital maturity index (DIMI) to inform all potential stakeholders from parents/children, policymakers and educators to digital businesses.

How digitally mature are children in Europe?

Marco Hubert: As the project is still in the data collection and analysis phase, so it is too early to say, but we have already observed a high diversity of digital maturity levels in the investigated countries (i.e. Austria, Germany, Greece, Spain, and Ireland), as expected. Interestingly, initial results indicate a positive correlation between digital maturity and children’s well-being and beneficial use of digital devices and content.

How to increase digital maturity?

Marco Hubert: This is the final goal of DIGYMATEX, which we aim to achieve within the next two years. First, we involved children in our search for methods and tools to increase digital maturity and finally we developed a mobile application to support children’s development of digital maturity. Furthermore, by measuring young peoples’ digital maturity, we aim to develop a set of recommendations for parents first and then for other stakeholders, to create interventions, develop guidelines, and support the facilitation and development of digital maturity.

(When) Can we expect a generation of digitally mature children?

Marco Hubert: As digital maturity is a dynamic concept, it is only slightly related to personality. Thus, it needs to be trained and supported, especially in early development. However, with the increasing development of new technologies and digital content (new apps), we could imagine that children might be more digitally literate in the future, but still maturity, as a holistic concept, needs to be trained and learned by each generation. In addition, digital maturity is also influenced by the digital maturity levels of parents, education, culture, and society. This complex mixture of factors makes it difficult to predict when or if such a situation will be attainable.

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