University of Louisville

Poster Title

The Development of Children’s Trust in Computers and People

Institution

University of Louisville

Abstract

Historically, children have consulted other people (e.g., parents, teachers) for information about the world around them. Today, children are being raised in a technological age, meaning that they have other information sources available (Druin, 2002). These sources include computers, phones, and tablets that access the internet. Most children have been exposed to these types of devices by 8-years old (Goessl, 2013). Because this is the first generation to grow up surrounded by technology, there is a question as to the effect technology is having on children’s thinking about information. This study focuses on whether children trust computers or people more as information sources. The participants were 4- and 5-year-old children and adults. Participants were told that they would be learning about animals from two different sources, represented by windows on a computer screen. One source was a chat window (similar to Skype) where questions could be entered and a person in another city would answer them. The second window was a search engine where one could input questions and the program would answer them. First, in four trials, the researchers established that the two sources were equally reliable. Then, in three trials, participants indicated whether they would rather ask the search engine or the person to answer a question about animals. Finally, in three trials, children’s trust was measured when the sources gave conflicting information about an unfamiliar animal. Parents also completed a survey about their child’s exposure to technology. When the sources presented conflicting answers, 4-year-olds endorsed the person’s answer more often while 5-year-olds and adults endorsed the search engine’s answer more often. These findings have important implications for education. Traditional teaching methods involve a person giving information, yet these results suggest that older children may place more trust in – and therefore learn more from – technological sources.

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The Development of Children’s Trust in Computers and People

Historically, children have consulted other people (e.g., parents, teachers) for information about the world around them. Today, children are being raised in a technological age, meaning that they have other information sources available (Druin, 2002). These sources include computers, phones, and tablets that access the internet. Most children have been exposed to these types of devices by 8-years old (Goessl, 2013). Because this is the first generation to grow up surrounded by technology, there is a question as to the effect technology is having on children’s thinking about information. This study focuses on whether children trust computers or people more as information sources. The participants were 4- and 5-year-old children and adults. Participants were told that they would be learning about animals from two different sources, represented by windows on a computer screen. One source was a chat window (similar to Skype) where questions could be entered and a person in another city would answer them. The second window was a search engine where one could input questions and the program would answer them. First, in four trials, the researchers established that the two sources were equally reliable. Then, in three trials, participants indicated whether they would rather ask the search engine or the person to answer a question about animals. Finally, in three trials, children’s trust was measured when the sources gave conflicting information about an unfamiliar animal. Parents also completed a survey about their child’s exposure to technology. When the sources presented conflicting answers, 4-year-olds endorsed the person’s answer more often while 5-year-olds and adults endorsed the search engine’s answer more often. These findings have important implications for education. Traditional teaching methods involve a person giving information, yet these results suggest that older children may place more trust in – and therefore learn more from – technological sources.