An ecological exploration of young children’s digital play: framing children’s social experiences with technologies in early childhood

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This article outlines an ecological framework for describing children’s social experiences during digital play. It presents evidence from a study that explored how 3- to 5-year-old children negotiated their social experiences as they used technologies in preschool. Utilising a systematic and iterative cycle of data collection and analysis, children’s interactions with 24 technological resources were examined over a nine-month period and across three phases. Findings reveal that children played in clusters, exhibiting a multitude of social behaviours and interactions and varied degrees of social participation, and assumed various social status roles and technological positions. These behaviours formed part of a Digital Play System, which in turn was influenced by the Preschool System, which comprises children and practitioners as active agents, technological affordances, and the cultural systems, routines and practices of the early childhood setting. Ultimately, children’s social experiences during digital play cannot be determined by any single element of the ecological system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-288
Number of pages18
JournalEarly Years
Issue number3
Early online date25 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016


  • children as agents
  • digital play
  • ecology
  • play
  • social experience
  • technology


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Lorna Arnott

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