'Doing IT for the kids': re-examining children, computers and the 'information society'

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For the past 20 years the discourse of the child as 'expert', or at least competent, computer user has proliferated in popular and political rhetoric in Western societies. From the early 1980s phenomena of the 'keyboard junkie' and computer hacker' to the 'cyberkids' and 'technotots' of the early 21st century, notions of omnipotent young computer users have been instrumental in shaping public expectations and fears concerning technology and society. Despite this importance, the role of the 'child computer user' in expediting societal acceptance of technology remains relatively unexamined. This article analyses the varying discursive constructions of 'child computer users' in the UK over the last 20 years through government rhetoric and policy making, IT industry marketing and media representation. In so doing the article shows how various discourses of the 'child computer user' have been integral elements in the framing and justification of prevailing notions of the 'information society' in the 'adult world' and, more importantly, continue to underpin the ongoing political-economic construction of the UK as a technological society. The article concludes by considering how the metaphoric use of the child acts to obscure the key actors and power relations behind the on-going construction of the information age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-378
Number of pages28
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Advertising
  • Child
  • Information technology
  • Newspaper stories
  • Political discourse

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