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Children's experiences of play in digital spaces: A scoping review
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3726-6681
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health, Learning and Technology, Health, Medicine and Rehabilitation.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0341-6197
2022 (English)In: PLOS ONE, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 17, no 8, article id e0272630Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has substantiated play for play's sake, thus focusing on the doing or being of play rather than any potentially desired outcomes. Examining this type of play from the perspective of the child acknowledges children as meaning-makers. A scoping review was conducted to expose and map the extent of the evidence available in the emerging and diverse field of children's experiences of play in digital spaces. Specifically, the literature was examined with regards to relevance to children's everyday lives, the personal and ecological relevance, and the methods used. A systematic search of the literature over the past fifteen years found thirty-one articles appropriate for inclusion. The analysis of the literature revealed that the articles formed four categories of how play in digital spaces was approached: 'Videogames, behaviours, and societal norms', 'Videogames for its own sake', 'Videogames for learning', and 'Active Videogames for health promotion'. This scoping review has identified a lack of articles focusing on children's experiences of play in a digital space, and these perspectives are essential for parents, professionals, game designers, and policymakers alike to contribute to an enhanced understanding of the role of play in digital spaces.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Public Library of Science (PLOS) , 2022. Vol. 17, no 8, article id e0272630
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Human Computer Interaction
Research subject
Occupational therapy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-92562DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272630ISI: 000944126000016PubMedID: 35944033Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85135768823OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-92562DiVA, id: diva2:1688427
Note

Validerad;2022;Nivå 2;2022-08-18 (sofila)

Available from: 2022-08-18 Created: 2022-08-18 Last updated: 2024-04-22Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Play Occupations in Digital Spaces: Children’s Experiences Throughout Childhood
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Play Occupations in Digital Spaces: Children’s Experiences Throughout Childhood
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Play is enshrined as a right for all children and is characterised by its autotelic and intrinsic nature.  As such, play is recognised as the primary occupation of children and best understood in terms of the multiple meanings it holds for individuals. The spaces in which children choose to play are considered to facilitate and limit opportunities and experiences for play reflecting a dynamic and complex interconnection between individuals, spaces, and occupations.    Despite the exponential growth of gaming technologies and digital devices offering children spaces for a plethora of novel, captivating and diverse play experiences, there remains a limited understanding of how these spaces afford or constrain play, especially from the perspective of the main protagonist, the child.  Exploring children’s perspectives of their play in such digital spaces can uncover the multifaceted dimensions highlighting the purposeful and meaningful nature of such occupations in children’s everyday life. Such understanding challenge current social discourses and support how such play experiences contribute to children’s wellbeing and active participation in society.   

The overall aim of this thesis was to generate a deeper understanding of children’s perceptions of their play occupations in digital spaces throughout the trajectory of childhood. This thesis was informed by four, qualitative research studies.  

Study I, a scoping review, aimed to identify and map the current literature examining children’s perspectives of play in digital spaces by exploring how the daily relevance, personal and ecological significance, and methods were approached in the research.  The review identified thirty-one articles from the past fifteen years with data extracted inspired by theories of play, ecology, and occupation.  The review highlighted a significant lack of empirical research focusing specifically on children’s autotelic play and which demonstrated a relevance to their everyday life.  Additionally, we found that methods did not consistently involve the active participation of children.  The findings from this review provided a clear rationale for the design of the subsequent three studies.

Choice making reflects a key aspect of how children experience their play, therefore, study II explored children’s experiences of their choice making in play within digital spaces.  Eight participants were recruited who were aged between 6 and 7 years old.  Using a focus group design and a plethora of data generation tools, the findings indicate that children enjoyed the flexibility and variety of choices offered by their play in digital spaces yet were constrained in their possibilities for play.  Further, findings highlight how children negotiate play experiences as a tension between choice making and their desire for mastery.  

Study III explored the play value of digital spaces, specifically how the digital space affords play from the perspective of the child.  The study was conducted using focus groups and comic strips to elicit data from eight children aged 11 years old.  Findings indicate that children value the endless opportunities for play that were not necessarily available to them in real world spaces.  Children discussed the play value associated with continually exploring new tasks, roles, and arenas, a space to be and do together, and to develop and learn. 

Study IV explored and identified how the meaning of playing video games is situated in adolescents’ everyday life.  The study utilised narrative methodologies to generate data from five participants aged 16 – 17 years.  The findings reflect how they engage in processes negotiating and balancing between occupations in both the physical and digital space with play integrated across their everyday lives. 

These studies reveal the richness and depth of perspectives children hold with regard their play in digital spaces and uncovers a unique and diverse number of characteristics that contributes to our understanding of the meaning children hold of this key occupation of childhood. This thesis articulates how children consider the primacy of play in their everyday lives in their negotiations between play in physical and digital spaces and how the, often overlooked, social dimensions of such play experiences throughout the course of childhood serves to enhance their connections with others and promote a sense of belonging. Additionally, the perception of competence in their play fostered their sense of self whilst embodying other roles and identities reflect a progression towards a future self.  

This enhanced understanding of the play occupations in digital spaces can be used to promote, offer, and design play occupations that reflect the experiences of children themselves thus recognising how and where play in digital spaces is integrated in relation to everyday life.  To further explore play occupations in digital spaces, it may be fruitful for future research to be designed with children in mind to further enhance understanding.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå University of Technology, 2024
Series
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
Keywords
children, digital space, occupation, perspectives, play, qualitative, young people
National Category
Occupational Therapy
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-105189 (URN)978-91-8048-550-0 (ISBN)978-91-8048-551-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-06-14, A110, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 861257
Available from: 2024-04-22 Created: 2024-04-22 Last updated: 2024-06-13Bibliographically approved

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