Research 6: Has Digital Changed Play? – Report

Posted on: Friday 03 July 2015 3:00pm by Jelena Stosic


  • Play is hugely important for children. It helps them develop, learn, reflect on life and sort out events.
  • Very few children feel that they are too old to play: only 6% of 7-12 year olds do.
  • Digital has not “killed” play. The context in which children play has changed; some of the tools they use for play have changed – but they are still essentially communicating with the people in their lives, and playing through their childhood.
  • 91% of parents report regularly using media devices as a family.


Dr. Barbie Clarke and Siv Svanaes from Family Kids & Youth shared the latest findings from their extensive studies, looking at the role of play in child development and family life in 2015. The insights they shared are based on their interviews of over 40,000 children, teens and parents from around the world.

Play matters, said Dr. Barbie, it always has and always will. If children were not allowed to play, the consequences would be devastating. Play is how they develop, learn and process the world around them. She shared a wonderful quote from Piaget stating that: “We can be sure that all happenings, pleasant or unpleasant, in the child’s life, will have repercussions on its dolls”. Piaget wrote this in 1962; it is still relevant now.

The increased prominence of devices in children’s lives has caused the public and the industry to question the  play opportunities in modern times. Is time children spend online taking away from their time spent playing? Furthermore, the time itself appears to be going faster and the after-school activities are getting vaster: 49% of parents agree that they “do not feel they have enough time to play their children” (up from 45% in 2009) and both children and parents (26%) feel that children do too many activities outside school.

Dr. Barbie and Siv’s research, however, has shown that despite the concerns about time spent online, there is evidence to show that parents are taking a sensible view on  it comes to role of digital in their children’s lives as well as recognition that it can be a very creative medium.

Their research shows that children, whilst playing in a different context, are playing much in the way they always have – with their families, friends. They are exploring, they are communicating, they are being creative. They may be online, but it is very important to recognise that play can occur there, too.

You can read more about this research on the Family Kids & Youth blog, where you will find a summary of findings. Here are the links: Part 1 and Part 2.

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Jelena Stosic

About the author

Jelena Stosic

The Little Big Partnership, Associate

Jelena is an Associate at The Little Big Partnership, a marketing consultancy focused on engaging children and family audiences. She has been working on audience research and analysis for over five years, bringing her insights to clients such as Xbox, Oxfam, Tottenham Hotspur, Unilever and The Little White Company. Jelena… Read more