Play in the Digital Age

Final Assignment for E-Learning and Digital Cultures
Kevin Shawn Hudson


Growing up in the 1970's I spent a large portion of my childhood outside playing with friends, playing sports, running from place to place, and creating imaginative games with our toys. In The Lore and Language of Early Education, Cathy Nutbrown corroborates this when she explores how children once played predominantly outside and describes their outdoor play as robust and skilful as many of the children had played in the streets from a very young age. The imaginative play - particularly domestic play - was very real, and the children were independent, practical, capable and resilient, many having to be so from a very young age, especially if they came from a large family (Nutbrown, 1998).

Computers and computer games were not introduced until I was older, and watching television was a rare treat. Each evening my father would read me a chapter of a classic novel before bed, and helped develop my fondness for books. By virtue of my age, and the activities that made up my childhood, Prensky (2001) would define me as a Digital Immigrant. According to Prensky, although computers have become a large part of my life, I have only migrated to the world of the digital, and can never hope to understand it in the same way as those that have grown up in it.

Today, children are predominantly plugged in to the digital, and are true Digital Natives according to Prensky (2001). But what factors have promoted the development of the digital native? Is it a factor of the cheap and ready availability of the digital babysitter that today's children are watching so much television, and spending so much time in front of the computer? Or is it that society has changed so much that parents fear letting their kids run freely around the neighborhood as we did when we were kids; that it's better they are inside where they are 'safe' and in sight? The increased availability of digital devices certainly plays a part, but is it not the choice of the parent as to how much their children are exposed to? Is it still possible to raise a non-native in today's digital world?