Exploring the early manifestation of information poverty in young children

Frances Breslin Davda, Steven Buchanan

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Information poverty is widely recognised as having a negative impact upon peoples’ health and wellbeing, and socioeconomic prosperity; however, whilst an issue of significant societal concern evidenced across a wide variety of adult groups and socioeconomic contexts, no studies have been previously undertaken with children. This appears a significant oversight given that many children across the globe are considered multi-dimensionally poor. This study thus sought to explore the possibility of information poverty amongst children. One hundred fifty-six children (aged 6–8) from five UK primary schools participated in a series of practical exercises exploring their information behaviours, and 34 parents and teachers were interviewed to provide further insights. Finding’s evidence self-protective information behaviours and unmet information needs amongst children aged 6–8; both characteristics of an impoverished information state. Whilst much can be explained in developmental terms (i.e. in relation to child age and emergent literacies), much can also be explained in information poverty terms encompassing issues of both information access and use. Notably, approximately half of our child participants considered themselves to be, in general, unsuccessful information seekers; and contrasts with the views of our adult participants who majority believed that children are, in general, successful information seekers. This paper provides the first evidence of information poverty in young children, and provides further insights into the role of parents in supporting their children’s information needs and shaping their developing information behaviours, with parental mediation of child media use appearing particularly problematic. Enduring inequalities in information access are also highlighted. Beyond call for further global research, a public communication campaign to increase awareness of child information poverty and contributory factors is recommended as an immediate priority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-177
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Librarianship and Information Science
Issue number1
Early online date22 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Nov 2022


  • information poverty
  • children
  • information needs


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