Exploring the role of children in adults' adoption and use of computers

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Although we now know much about children's use of information and communications technologies, researchers have yet to consider adequately the roles that children play in shaping adults' computer use. Via household survey data from a randomised sample of 1,001 adults and in-depth interview data from 100 of these initial respondents, this paper explores the meditating roles of children in: the purchasing/acquisition of computers by adults; adults' access to computers; the level and nature of adults' use (and non-use) of computers; how adults learn to use computers; and how adults are supported when using computers. The paper concludes that while children play a variety of roles in adults' (non)adoption and (non)use of computers this influence is often tempered by a range of other factors and, indeed, should not be overstated. For example, while children appear to be a significant “official” factor in parents' and grandparents' adoption of computers they were rarely the sole reason for adults investing time and money in ICT – with a range of other self-orientated reasons usually in attendance. In terms of adults' access to and use of ICT, the demands of children to use computers were a mitigating but not always dominant factor to be considered by parents. Similarly, children appear to play a peripheral role in supporting adults' use of ICT. The paper concludes by considering how the role of children in adults' use of ICT would appear to be often more symbolic than practical;, e.g. as an official justification for buying/adopting a computer rather than as a strong and sustained guiding force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-70
Number of pages18
JournalInformation Technology & People
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • computers
  • social networks
  • adults
  • children (age group)
  • family

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