University of Oulu

Fiona Scott, J. Marsh, K. Murris, D. Ng’ambi, B. S. Thomsen, C. Bannister, J. Bishop, K. Dixon, T. Giorza, A. Hetherington, C. Lawrence, B. Nutbrown, B. Parry, J. Peers & E. Scholey (2023) An ecological perspective on children’s play with digital technologies in South Africa and the United Kingdom, International Journal of Play, 12:3, 349-374, DOI: 10.1080/21594937.2023.2235466

An ecological perspective on children’s play with digital technologies in South Africa and the United Kingdom

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Author: Scott, Fiona1; Marsh, J.1; Murris, K.2,3;
Organizations: 1School of Education, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
2School of Education, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
3Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4The LEGO Foundation, Billund, Denmark
5School of Education, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
6University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-11-01


This paper reports a mixed-methods study of the play of children (3–11) with digital technologies in South Africa (SA) and the United Kingdom (UK), discussing the interrelatedness of access to devices and the Internet, contextual realities, and adult-child relations. An adapted ecological model [Bronfenbrenner (1979) The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Harvard University Press] guided analysis. Parents and carers in the UK were more likely than their SA counterparts to report children’s engagement in object, construction and transgressive digital play, correlating with access differences, especially to tablet devices. However, play incorporating technologies was extensive, even in contexts in SA with limited access to a wide range of devices or readily available internet. Despite relying primarily on smartphones, children in SA were more likely to create digital content unassisted than those in the UK. The qualitative data complicate understandings of particular play types, including transgressive digital play.

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Series: International journal of play
ISSN: 2159-4937
ISSN-E: 2159-4953
ISSN-L: 2159-4937
Volume: 12
Issue: 3
Pages: 349 - 374
DOI: 10.1080/21594937.2023.2235466
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: We thank The LEGO Foundation for funding the study on which this paper is based.
Copyright information: © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License(, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.