Play and Mobile Phones

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    Lesley Fox

      I recently attended a webinar where we saw a presentation from Dr Chris Martin who had recently completed his thesis on play and technology.  I found it interesting, but did not necessarily agree on all he said.  For example, he spoke of an observation within an adventure playground where two girls were filming each other climbing a tree.  The girls were later witnessed reviewing the footage, laughing and generally having fun together with their phones and footage – it was suggested that this was just an extension of the tree climbing and that the phones were another play tool.  I then read today that a school cluster in Seattle USA had launched a law suit against some of the major social media platforms such as Tik Tok, claiming their children’s education was suffering due to social media pressure which was leading to poor mental health and online addiction.  My guess is that they are both not 100% correct.  It would be great to hear peoples views on play and technology and in particular phones – are they hindering play, are they being used as an extension for play, or are the affects of being drawn in to engage by algorithms and peer pressure not only leaving less time for play, but causing poor mental health and wellbeing?

      Sharon Smith

        During the summer holidays I was delivering outdoor free-play sessions which were attended by parents and local children. I was surprised by the number of children of primary school age who attended the session with a mobile phone. I witnessed one child in particular,  who found it very difficult to put their phone away and would continue to hold it in one hand whilst attempting to play.  On this occasion I agree that the phones became a distraction and hindrance rather than an aid to support and extend play. That day another group of children were engaged in imaginative and fantasy play themes with a large cardboard box and expressed many of the characteristics we associate with play; they were so fully engaged that they lost awareness of their surroundings, time, and space.


        I think in this day and age mobile phones and social media platforms are imbedded into daily life. Children’s play often mimics actions of the adults in their lives – This isn’t to say that children need a mobile phone as they can pretend to be on the phone (as many do when playing pretend). However, as Sharon stated having a mobile phone can become a distraction and hindrance to play and I agree.

        In terms of poor health and wellbeing I believe that depends on the particular circumstance as it could be detrimental in many ways (cyberbullying etc.) However, a study in 2014 by Dr Haddon found that mobile phone use could actually encourage more outgoing behaviours as it allows people to connect without having to be in the same place geographically which if done in a positive way can help mental health and wellbeing.


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