Childhood in the digital age
Childhood in the digital age

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Childhood in the digital age

Week 2: Social identities in cyberspace


In this second week of the course you will focus specifically on children’s social development, investigating the themes of communication, friendship, play spaces and identity, and comparing face-to-face experiences with those in the virtual world. The following video introduces some intriguing questions that are being asked about children’s social identities in virtual environments.

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Nathalia Gjersoe
  How is digital technology changing children's relationships and shaping their online identities? With children's growing interest in social media, we consider the quality of children's online friendships and how they differ from more traditional face-to-face relationships. Every week my son and I Skype his grandparents in Australia. Digital technology is very important in keeping our family connected. As he gets older, my son will have more opportunities to connect with family, friends but also strangers online. Does having access to an online community mean that he will have more friends and a larger support network? Or does it open him up to predators and risks he doesn't yet appreciate?
Children's social networking has now moved into exciting virtual worlds where children as young as 3 can chat, play games and create their own avatars. Psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists understand that traditional play and imaginary worlds allow children to practise the roles that they will take on as adults, learn social skills and experiment with different identities while working out who they are. Can play in virtual worlds offer the same experience and what is the right balance between real and virtual play? This week we'll explore how research into digital technologies is leading us to re-think what we understand about how children play, socialise and forge their own identities.
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Childhood, as we know, is a period of major steps in physical, social and mental development; it is a time when children experiment to make sense of the world. What role do digital technologies play in shaping early childhood experiences? Do they provide new opportunities for social awareness, such as establishing friendship groups and forming new identities, or do they, in fact, hinder or disrupt children’s social development?


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