Kids are leading the transition to digital media today. But, while too much time online could cause developmental problems, media consumption habits may not be making our children less bright or sociable, after all, says Taylor & Francis.
Recently published in the International Journal of Play, a new study looks at two of the most emblematic Disney movies, Davy Crockett and Frozen, and investigates the changes in children’s response to films in the 1950s and the 2010s. It also reveals that, beyond the technological and cultural advancements of the past 60 years, childhood creativity and innovation are still at the core of young people’s development today.
There is no doubt play is at the hearth of literacy. ‘Through play children represent their understanding of the world around them symbolically’; they also exercise their vocabulary as well as imagination through storytelling, explains the author of the study. Popular culture, including films like the Disney ones, represents a crucial part of this practice. Drawing on the work of the Opies, as well as on an impressive body of information encompassing primary and secondary sources, this novel research shows the degree to which technological and commercial advancements have impacted on children’s media consumption in the past 60 years.
Fueled by social media communication practices amongst fans, the speed at which knowledge transfers between playgrounds (playground hype), the popularity of parodic play, as well as the importance of music, which is now a mainstream phenomenon as shown by the global appeal of the Frozen soundtrack, have exponentially grown in intensity and magnitude in the 2010s. All those sleek marketing activities that so cunningly tap into fans’ passions in an attempt to prolong interest in movies for as long as possible, are other critical signs of the commercial and social changes brought about by the digital revolution. Interestingly, adults’ response to children’s crazes and interests were reported to have remained almost unchanged since the 1950s in the study. This is imputable to the fact that parents forget they once took part in similar manias themselves, and panic about film implications as much now as when back in the 50s. But what about the nature of play and literacy, then?
This interesting study reveals that, while both films prompted fantasy play, contemporary play is characterized by a process of more complex assemblage, which is enhanced by kids’ online relationships. Even if the key features of childhood still remain at the hearth of our daily life, due to the technological and cultural changes of the past 60 years, kids’ response to popular movies is significantly different today. With fans becoming prod-users, ‘peer-to-peer multimodal multimedia creations’ will increasingly come to be a primary focus for play, literacy and creativity, explains the author. Clearly, things no longer look that bad in the digital playground now. Perhaps it’s time to stop crying wolf, then?
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