Researchers from the EU-funded DIGYMATEX project, which aims to create robust, evidence-based tools for understanding and measuring children’s digital maturity, have published a scientific paper detailing a key part of the project, titled “Digital maturity: Development and validation of the Digital Maturity Inventory (DIMI)”.
The scientific article by DIGYMATEX researchers Franziska Laaber, Arnd Florack and Teresa Koch from the Department of Occupational, Economic and Social Psychology at the University of Vienna, together with Marco Hubert from the Department of Management at Aarhus University, has been published in volume 143 of Computers in Human Behavior, and can be downloaded and read here.
“We developed the concept of digital maturity based on the idea that the use of digital technologies can either support or hinder psychological growth and positive social adjustment. While the assessment of screen time, for example, is limited in describing the quality of technology use, the developed DIMI allows researchers to assess the beneficial or harmful use of digital technologies along ten different dimensions” the DIGYMATEX researchers explained.
The ten dimensions of digital maturity included in the DIMI measure three main competences of digital maturity: The Capacity to Use Digital Technologies in an Autonomous and Self-determined Way, The Capacity to Master Increasing Digital Challenges and Solve Problems, and The Capacity to Interact Adequately with Others and Contribute to Society.
A large body of research has already demonstrated the negative effects of young people’s use of digital technologies, but until now, “there has been a lack of research that considers mature use of digital technologies not only as the absence of addiction, but as a multifaceted construct that includes different capabilities,” the team noted in explaining the importance of the DIMI and the DIGYMATEX project.
In the paper, the team presents the results of their analyses, which confirm that digital maturity is linked to personality maturity through the aspects of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability.
Digital maturity – or the lack thereof – was shown to be uniquely powerful as a predictor of problematic mobile device use, beyond individual differences in personality, age, and even the amount of mobile device use. Digital maturity is therefore “a construct embedded in existing approaches of personality development but designed to measure specific competencies needed in digital contexts,” the team said.
In the published research, the ten-dimensional DIMI measure was conceptualised, and tested across several studies. The team sought to validate the factor structure and internal consistency of the scale through confirmatory factor analysis, as well as tests of the scale’s convergent, discriminant, and incremental validity.
“We developed a reliable and valid new measure of young people’s digital maturity (DIMI) comprising ten dimensions. We are confident that digital maturity makes valuable theoretical contributions to the field,” the DIGYMATEX researchers said. “The DIMI will facilitate and advance research on beneficial technology use among young people,” they added.
DIGYMATEX aims to provide clear evidence on how digital maturity affects the usage of mobile devices among children aged nine to eighteen, by balancing risk and resilience factors and maximising benefits.