The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child

Project Overview

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child is the world’s first research centre dedicated to creating positive digital childhoods for all Australian children.

Children are growing up learning and connecting with digital technology, but there needs to be more research and understanding about the positive outcomes of this - along with the risks. Australians want to know how technology can help their children learn, how to recognise good digital engagement from bad, how much technology is safe for their children and how to keep their children safe online.

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child is working to deliver and disseminate evidence-based research that will help parents and teachers keep Australian children healthy, educated and connected in a digital world.

Deakin is the only Victorian university that is part of the Centre which is headquartered at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and includes researchers from Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, The University of Queensland and University of Wollongong.

The Centre’s research innovates and intersects across fields of health, education and technology to offer a holistic view of young children and their digital experiences. The heart of the Centre’s research program is its Longitudinal Family Study – a seven-year study of 3000 Australian families, focusing on children from birth to eight years of age. The study is designed to provide the big picture – to identify potential problems and unmet possibilities associated with digital technologies in early childhood. A range of connected cross-disciplinary projects will provide evidence in three key areas:

  • Healthy Child: balancing the health risks of digital technologies against access to knowledge and social interactions that provide opportunity for positive physical, social and emotional wellbeing.
  • Educated Child: harnessing digital technologies to optimise learning and access to knowledge through active interactions and development of engaging and thought-provoking technologies.
  • Connected Child: balancing access to social and knowledge connections in the digital world against risks of surveillance, infringements of privacy and child rights.

The Deakin node of the Centre, based at REDI, will be involved in projects across all three program areas include looking at children's technology use at home, learning in diverse settings, data analytics and children's digital rights, equity of use and access, impacts on family life, the internet of things and commercialisation and the digital child.

Professor Julian Sefton-Green is a Chief Investigator at the Centre and is co-leader of the Connected Child program. Professor Sefton-Green’s expertise and experience has included exploring learning both in the home and out of school as well as the role of digital technology in expanded social contexts and exploring changing pedagogies. He is interested in ways that data intervenes in family life, and how government and business influence life opportunities for children.

Dr Luci Pangrazio’s expertise in datafication, young people’s digital and data literacies, and digital cultures has led to her role as Chief Investigator in the Connected Child program. Dr Pangrazio’s research will focus on the datafication of young children’s technology use – what data is being collected and how it is being used, and the implications of this.

Professor Louise Paatsch’s research focuses on children's and young people's communication, language, pretend play, and literacy development, with a strong focus on metapragmatic and pragmatic language use and the link to social communication. As a Centre Chief Investigator, Professor Paatsch’s work will offer further understanding of how the digital supports children’s communication, language, play and literacy learning.

Dr Maria Nicholas’ interest in literacy development in the pre-school years and early years of schooling led her to her role as Associate Investigator at the Centre. Maria will contribute to the Educated Child program, investigating adult-child shared reading using printed and electronic texts, and continuing her research interest in digital literacies and teaching approaches.

Dr Xinyu (Andy) Zhao’s research interests include digital media, transnational mobility, young people, and the intersections of them. Andy is a Research Fellow at the Centre and will use his experience and expertise in researching culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in the digital age.

Dr Kate Mannell’s research analyses the design, governance, and use of digital platforms. As a Research Fellow at the Deakin node of the Centre, Kate will examine how digital platforms are shaped by public and private interests, and how they are integrated into the everyday life of children and families.

Dr Celine Chu’s research interests focus on children’s literacy and early childhood education. As a Research Fellow at the Deakin node, Celine will contribute her experience and expertise towards various Centre projects looking into aspects of digital play, and how digital play supports children’s language and literacy learning.

As an Associate Investigator at the Centre, Dr Sharon Horwood will examine early childhood digital technology use from the perspectives of the parent, the child, and the digital environment. With health and wellbeing being at the forefront of her work, Dr Horwood’s research looks at the impacts of problematic technology use on health and wellbeing across the lifespan.


Outcomes will include:

  • recommendations for policy-makers and curriculum development to enable child-directed digital learning, participation and enjoyment
  • guidelines and resources for parents, educators and communities about safe and effective digital practices
  • technological innovations that support children’s digital engagement
  • professional development programs for those working with children
  • build research capacity with high quality graduates and early career researchers.

Research partners/funding

Funded through a $34.9M ARC grant and an additional $32.2M in cash and in-kind contributions from national and international partners.

Key words

Digital child, digitalisation, early childhood, ARC, centre of excellence, digital engagement, digital learning, digital practices * Teacher Education * Innovative Learning Environments * Literacies

Deakin Node team

Professor Julian Sefton-Green - Chief Investigator

Dr Luci Pangrazio - Chief Investigator

Professor Louise PaatschChief Investigator

Dr Maria Nicholas - Associate Investigator

Dr Sharon HorwoodAssociate Investigator

Dr Xinyu (Andy) ZhaoResearch Fellow

Dr Kate MannellResearch Fellow

Dr Celine Chu Research Fellow

Loretta Watson – Project Officer

The Deakin University Digital Child office is located at Building C2.06, Burwood campus.