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Play Occupations in Digital Spaces: Children’s Experiences Throughout Childhood
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health, Education and Technology, Health, Medicine and Rehabilitation. University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3726-6681
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 [en]
children, digital space, occupation, perspectives, play, qualitative, young people
National Category
Occupational Therapy
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-105189ISBN: 978-91-8048-550-0 (print)ISBN: 978-91-8048-551-7 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-105189DiVA, id: diva2:1853330
Public defence
2024-06-14, A110, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 861257Available from: 2024-04-22 Created: 2024-04-22 Last updated: 2024-06-13Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Children's experiences of play in digital spaces: A scoping review
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Children's experiences of play in digital spaces: A scoping review
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
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Human Computer Interaction
Research subject
Occupational therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-92562 (URN)10.1371/journal.pone.0272630 (DOI)000944126000016 ()35944033 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-85135768823 (Scopus ID)
Note

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

Available from: 2022-08-18 Created: 2022-08-18 Last updated: 2024-04-22Bibliographically approved
2. Making choices in digital play spaces: Children’s experiences
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Making choices in digital play spaces: Children’s experiences
2023 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, ISSN 1103-8128, E-ISSN 1651-2014, Vol. 30, no 8, p. 1460-1471Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background:

Digital spaces are rapidly emerging as a space for children to engage in autotelic play.

Aim:

To explore and describe children’s experiences of choice-making in their play in digital spaces from the perspective of children themselves.

Methods:

Focus groups were conducted with a total of eight children aged six years of age within their school, in a large city in Ireland. A Mosaic Approach with drawing, cutting, and colouring in was used to elicit the children’s voices to ensure their active engagement throughout the data collection. Data was analyzed using focus group analysis.

Results:

Data analysis revealed three main themes; children enjoy the ability to make choices in their play, that they are often constrained in their ability to make choices, and that they negotiate ways in which they can select options for play in digital spaces.

Conclusions:

Findings indicate that children are agentic individuals who are capable of making decisions in their play in digital spaces. This knowledge provides implications for Occupational Therapists to enhance play as an occupation in digital spaces.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2023
Keywords
Child-centred, family, play, qualitative, technology
National Category
Learning
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-102429 (URN)10.1080/11038128.2023.2271050 (DOI)37917097 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-85175787004 (Scopus ID)
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie no. 861257
Note

Validerad;2023;Nivå 2;2023-11-14 (sofila);

License fulltext: CC BY-NC-ND

Available from: 2023-11-13 Created: 2023-11-13 Last updated: 2024-04-22Bibliographically approved
3. Play value of digital play spaces: Children's voices
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Play value of digital play spaces: Children's voices
2024 (English)In: International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, ISSN 2212-8689, E-ISSN 2212-8697, Vol. 40, article id 100649Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Play for plays sake emphasises the significance of how children characterise play opposed to any secondary purposes or benefits it may generate. The concept of play value draws attention to how the space in which children play proffers the experiences that children want. Increasingly, digital play experiences are emerging as spaces for play. This inquiry aims to examine the play value of digital spaces, specifically how play is afforded by the digital space from the perspective of children. Eight children aged 11 years old participated in seven focus groups, creating comic strips which were used to elicit discussions. Focus group analysis generated three themes with associated sub-themes which were collectively explained by the overarching theme of endless possibilities in play in digital spaces. This study provides a new understanding of how digital spaces affords play value from the child's perspective.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2024
Keywords
Perspectives, Play, Qualitative, Technology
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-104859 (URN)10.1016/j.ijcci.2024.100649 (DOI)2-s2.0-85188067803 (Scopus ID)
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 861257
Note

Validerad;2024;Nivå 1;2024-03-25 (hanlid);

Full text license: CC BY 4.0

Available from: 2024-03-25 Created: 2024-03-25 Last updated: 2024-04-22Bibliographically approved
4. The process of negotiating and balancing digital play in everyday life: Adolescents' narratives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The process of negotiating and balancing digital play in everyday life: Adolescents' narratives
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-105188 (URN)
Available from: 2024-04-22 Created: 2024-04-22 Last updated: 2024-04-22

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