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Childhood in the digital age
Childhood in the digital age

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2 Play in an online world

Playing online can mean playing video games, using apps or browsing the content of a child-directed website, such as PBS Kids for example. Professor Lydia Plowman has researched the way in which children learn through apps and games.

A key focus, Lydia Plowman suggests, is allowing children to explore through parental guidance. Part of this process is children ‘learning how to learn’ by making their own choices and decisions.

Together with Professor Jackie Marsh and colleagues (Marsh et al., 2016), these researchers argue that we need a new classification for children’s digital play. They suggest that it is not the types of play but the nature of the play that changes with technologies. In their own words:

Contemporary play draws on both the digital and the non-digital properties of things and in doing so moves fluidly across boundaries of space and time in ways that were not possible in the pre-digital era.

(Marsh et al., 2016, p. 251)

Notable in this quote is the connection between digital and non-digital worlds, or virtual and physical play. The next section discusses the opportunities for play in virtual worlds.