Home » The Digital Child

The Digital Child

TDC-Ani-Logo (1)I am interested in how networked communication, social media and digital data traces have changed the experience of childhood both for children and people they with, especially parents and loved ones. I am particularly focused on questions about privacy, surveillance and the way companies producing wearables, apps and devices tend to collect data about children. In 2013 and 2014 Dr Tim Highfield and I undertook a research project looking at the way ultrasound images were shared on Instagram, with expectant parents effectively beginning the online footprint of young people before they are even born. Questions of sharenting, privacy, data security, the right of the forgotten and the rights of children are all central to my work. I am currently a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child which launched in 2020 with the broad remit of increasing our national understanding of the way childhood has changed in Australia in light of digital technologies.


Archer, C., & Leaver, T. (In press, accepted 3 July 2020). Santa’s little helper and star of Instagram, Elf on the Shelf: Gendered labour, normalising surveillance and digitising a childhood phenomenon. In D. Holloway, K. Murcia, C. Archer, M. Willson, & F. Stocco (Eds.), Young Children’s Rights in the Digital World: Play, Design and Practice. Springer.

Leaver, T. (2021). Balancing Privacy: Sharenting, Intimate Surveillance and the Right to Be Forgotten. In L. Green, D. Holloway, K. Stevenson, T. Leaver, & L. Haddon (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Children and Digital Media. Routledge. [Pre-print]

Green, L., Holloway, D., Stevenson, K., Leaver, T. & Haddon, L. (Eds.). (2021) The Routledge Companion to Children and Digital Media. Routledge.

Leaver, T. (2018) Co-creating Birth and Death on Social Media In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.) A Networked Self and Birth, Life, Death. (pp. 35-49). New York: Routledge.  [Pre-print]

Leaver, T., & Highfield, T. (2018). Visualising the ends of identity: pre-birth and post-death on Instagram. Information, Communication & Society, 21(1), 30–45. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1259343

Leaver, T., (2017). Intimate Surveillance: Normalizing Parental Monitoring & Mediation of Infants Online. Social Media + Society, 3(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305117707192

Leaver, T. and Nansen, B. (2017) ‘Infancy Online’ special issue of Social Media + Society, 3,2, June 2017, http://journals.sagepub.com/page/sms/collections/special-issues/infancy-online.

Leaver, T. (2015). Born Digital? Presence, Privacy, and Intimate Surveillance. In Hartley, J & W. Qu (Eds.), Re-Orientation: Translingual Transcultural Transmedia. Studies in narrative, language, identity, and knowledge (pp. 149–160). Shanghai: Fudan University Press

Leaver, T. (2015). Researching the Ends of Identity: Birth and Death on Social Media. Social Media + Society, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305115578877

Nansen, B. and Leaver, T. (Eds.). (2015) Beginnings issue of M/C Journal, 18, 5, October 2015, http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/view/beginnings (Edited special issue; Editorial.)


Leaver, T. (2019) Closed Literacies and the Gamification of Infancy, Open Literacy Research Symposium, Fremantle, Western Australia, 30 September 2019.

Leaver, T.  and C. Abidin (2018) From YouTube to TV, and Back Again: Viral Video Child Stars and Media Flows in the Era of Social Media, Internet Research 2018, Selected Papers of #AoIR2018, Montreal, Canada, 10-13 October. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2018i0.10491

Archer, C. and Leaver, T. (2018, July 11) Santa’s little helper and star of Instagram, #elfontheshelf: Normalising surveillance and digitising a childhood phenomenon, presented at Digitalising Early Childhood International Conference, Perth, Western Australia.

Leaver, T. (2017, December 4). Bad Mums of Instagram?, Minority Stereotypes in Digital Culture Symposium, 4-5 December 2017, Perth, The University of Western Australia.

Leaver, T. (2017, November 13) Intimate Surveillance and Affective Monitoring of Infants. Digital Intimacies 3.0: Connections & Disconnections, 13-15 November, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia.

Abidin C. & Leaver, T. (13 September 2017), From YouTube to TV and Back Again: Viral video child stars and media flows in the era of social media , Digitising Early Childhood Conference, Perth, Australia, https://www.slideshare.net/Tama/from-youtube-to-tv-and-back-again-viral-video-child-stars-and-media-flows-in-the-era-of-social-media

Leaver, T. (12 September 2017), Turning Babies into Big Data–And How to Stop it [Invited Keynote], Digitising Early Childhood Conference, Perth, Australia, https://www.slideshare.net/Tama/turning-babies-into-big-data-and-how-to-stop-it

Leaver, T. (2017, April 19)  The Will to App: digitising public health, Public Panel, UNSW Media Research Network, Sydney, 4pm, 19 April 2017. [Invited speaker.]

Leaver, T. (2017, April 19) Solving Parenthood? Apps, Infant Wearables & Digital Solutionism, The Will to App Symposium, UNSW Sydney. [Invited paper.]

Leaver, T. Intimate Surveillance: Normalizing Cultures of Monitoring from Conception to Infancy, Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference, Sydney, Australia, 15 December 2016, http://www.slideshare.net/Tama/intimate-surveillance-normalizing-cultures-of-monitoring-from-conception-to-infancy

Leaver, T. Normalizing Intimate Surveillance: Parental Monitoring and Mediation of Infants Online, Controlling Data: Someone Think of the Children Symposium, 24 October 2016, Perth, Western Australia, http://www.slideshare.net/Tama/intimate-surveillance-normalizing-parental-monitoring-and-mediation-of-infants-online [Mp3 Audio Recording]

Leaver, T. and Highfield, F. (2015) Instagramming The Ends of Identity: Pre-birth and post-death identity practices mapped via the #ultrasound and #funeral hashtags, 12th ICA Mobile Pre-Conference, From Womb to Tomb: Mobile Research Across Genders, Generations, Ethnicities, Cultures, and Life Stages, San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 20-21, 2015 http://www.slideshare.net/campoalto/instagrammingthe-ends-of-identity-prebirth-and-postdeath-identity-practices-mapped-via-theultrasound-and-funeral-hashtags

Leaver, T. ‘Captured at Birth? Presence, Privacy and Intimate Surveillance’ IR15: Boundaries and Intersections, Association of Internet Researchers Conference, Daegu, South Korea, 23 October 2014, http://slidesha.re/1HqNFcY

Leaver, T. and Highfield, T.  ‘Mapping the Ends of Identity on Instagram’, presented at the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) Annual Conference, Swinburne University, Melbourne, 9 July 2014, http://slidesha.re/1oyDVl7

Leaver, T. ‘Born Digital? Birth and Social Media’, Culture +8: New times, New Zones, Margaret River, Western Australia, 5 June 2014 (invited presentation).

Leaver, T. ‘Captured at Birth? Intimate Surveillance and Digital Legacies’, presented at Surveillance, Copyright, Privacy: The end of the open internet Conference, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, 1 Feburary 2014, http://slidesha.re/1jVSnnl

Leaver, T. ‘The Ends of Online Identity’, Internet Research 12, Seattle, 10-13 October 2011. http://slidesha.re/1D4Mr7t


Leaver, T. Interviewed in Annabel Hennessy, Children vulnerable to online bullies, The West Australian, Tuesday, 31 March 2020, pp. 1, 11.

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Rhett Burnie, Primary School App Use and Privacy, ABC Radio Canberra, Canberra, AM, 19 February 2020, 8.20am. [Mp3]

Leaver, T. Interviewed in Carmelle Wilkinson, Valuable lessons in School Safety, Canning Gazette, Perth, 6 February 2020, p.5.

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Fiona Wyllie, AirDrop and Cyberflashing, NSW Statewide Drive, ABC Mid North Coast, 21 June 2019, 3.34pm. [Radio]

Leaver, T. Interviewed in Nicole Precel, Ursula didn’t know what cyber flashing was until the day at the museum, The Age, 20 June 2019, https://www.theage.com.au/national/ursula-didn-t-know-what-cyber-flashing-was-until-the-day-at-the-museum-20190512-p51mm6.html

Leaver, T. Interviewed in Gian De Poloni and Kate Leaver, Cyber flashing is the new iPhone safety threat as AirDrop used to share porn, explicit content, ABC News, 12 May 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-12/cyber-flashing-porn-sent-to-iphones-using-airdrop/11092974

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Aaron Kearney, Should you be posting photos of your kids online?, Drive, ABC Radio Newcastle, 14 March 2019, 2.45pm, https://www.abc.net.au/radio/newcastle/programs/drive/

Leaver, T. Interviewed in Rhianna Mitchell, Fears as troll targets kids online, The Sunday Times, 3 March 2019, p. 20. https://www.perthnow.com.au/technology/internet/momo-challenge-labelled-a-hoax-by-experts-youtube-ng-b881123682z

Leaver, T. Interviewed in Bethany Hiatt, The Sad Reality of Back to School 2019, The West Australian, 5 February 2019, p. 9. https://thewest.com.au/news/education/cyber-fears-are-the-sad-reality-of-back-to-school-2019-ng-b881093912z

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Annie Gaffney, When Should Children Get Their First Smartphone, National Afternoons, ABC Sydney (and Nationally), 1 January 2019, 2.11pm. [Radio] [Mp3 Recording]

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Geoff Hutchison, Surveillance and Elf on the Shelf, Drive, ABC Radio Perth, 11 July 2018, 6.20pm. [Radio]

Leaver, T. Interviewed by Geof Parry and Lisa Barnes, Elf on the Shelf and Child Surveillance, Breakfast, 6PR 882, 8.20am, 11 July 2018. https://omny.fm/shows/breakfast-with-steve-and-basil/tama-leaver-elf-on-the-shelf [Radio]

Leaver, T. Quoted in Holly Hales, Snow joke! Fears Elf on the Shelf toy that reports on kids being naughty or nice ‘normalises a surveillance culture and encourages spying’, The Daily Mail, 11 July 2018, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5940123/Elf-Shelf-Christmas-toys-accused-encouraging-spying-kids.html

Leaver, T. Interviewed in Rhianna Mitchell, Worry over ‘sinister surveillance’ of toys, The West Australian, 11 July 2018, p. 3, https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/worry-over-sinister-surveillance-of-toys-ng-b88892026z

Leaver, T.Interviewed by Melinda James, Facebook’s Bid for Kids Data, ABC Radio Sydney, National Evenings, 28 December 2017, 8.47pm. [Radio]

Leaver, T. Facebook hoping Messenger Kids will draw future users, and their data, ABC News, 28 December 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-28/messenger-kids-is-facebooks-strategy-video-messeging-app-google/9285530?pfmredir=sm&section=analysis

Interviewed in Kim Cousins, The Business of Babies and Big Data, Particle, 1 November 2017, https://particle.scitech.org.au/people/%E2%80%8Bthe-business-babies-big-data/

Interviewed in Alexandra Ristway, Hacked Baby Monitor, Seven Nightly News, Channel 7  WA, 27 September 2017, 6.08pm [TV] (Replayed on Sunrise, Channel 7, 28 September 2017, 7.00am) https://thewest.com.au/technology/security/hacking-horror-in-waikiki-bc-5590305886001

Interviewed in Cathy O’Leary, The hidden dangers of parents oversharing on social media, The West Australian, 27 September 2017, p. 29, https://thewest.com.au/opinion/cathy-oleary/cathy-oleary-the-hidden-dangers-of-parents-oversharing-on-social-media-ng-b88610062z

Leaver, T interviewed in Kim Cousins, From YouTube to TV and Back Again, Particle, 19 September 2017, https://particle.scitech.org.au/people/from-youtube-to-tv-and-back-again/

Leaver, T interviewed in Leon Compton, Protecting Online Identities of Children, Statewide Mornings, ABC Hobart, 13 September 2017, 9.52am, http://www.abc.net.au/radio/hobart/programs/mornings/social-media-and-parenting/8940830 [Radio]

Leaver, T interviewed by Fiona Parker, Digitising Early Childhood, Breakfast, ABC Central Victoria, 13 September 2017, 9.34am [Radio]

Leaver, T interviewed in Rebecca Turner, Owlet Smark Sock prompts warning for parents, fears over babies’ sensitive health data, ABC News, 12 September 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-12/owlet-smart-sock-prompts-warning-for-parents-privacy-concerns/8893104

Leaver, T interviewed in Brigid O’Connell, Kids in data danger: parents ‘oversharenting’, Herald Sun, Melbourne, 12 September 2017, p. 11.

Leaver, T interviewed in ‘Experts have warned parents that a new high-tech baby monitor will not reduce the risk of their baby dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS’ ABC Radio Perth; ABC Radio Hobart; ABC Radio Adelaide; 12 September 2017. [Radio]

Leaver, T interviewed in Brigid O’Connell, Parents may be unwittingly turning babies into big data, Herald Sun, 11 September 2017, http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/parents-may-be-unwittingly-turning-babies-into-big-data/news-story/c8b6693d390fa95a27162a88f17d71ef

Leaver, T interviewed in Brett Worthington, ‘How social media videos turn children into viral sensations’, Life Matters, Radio National, 11 September 2017, 9.40am, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/viral-kids-youtube-instagram-micro-celebrities/8886520

Leaver, T interviewed in Cathy O’Leary, ‘Parents air kids’ lives on social media’. The Weekend West, 9 September 2017, p. 23. [PDF] https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/parents-airing-kids-lives-on-social-media-ng-b88591452z

Leaver, T. interviewed in Syan Dougherty, Sharenting, Today Tonight Perth, Channel 7, 6.30pm, 31 January 2017. https://youtu.be/DZ9RGYN031E

Leaver, T. interviewed in Emily Blatchford, Why Posting Pictures Of Kids On Social Media Doesn’t Float Every Parent’s Boat, Huffington Post Australia, 8 February 2016,

Leaver, T. interviewed in Kristin Shorten, ‘Foetusbook the new Facebook for parents’, News.Com.AU, 30 January 2013,

Leaver, T. invited presentation: ‘How Will Young People Deal With 5000 Baby Photos on Facebook?’, Media 140: Digital Family, Perth, 28 April 2012. [Slides]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email