Investigating young children’s social interactions during digital play

Leigh Disney, Gretchen Geng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In digital play, social interactions have aroused much debate among early childhood stakeholders, particularly in the areas of young children’s social learning and their domains of development. The main concern of early childhood educators is the limits of children’s social interactions occurring in digital play. This study used a four-week semi-structured field observation of eighty 3–4-year-old children within three Australian childcare centres to investigate children’s social interaction whilst involved in digital play using iPads. Seven different forms of social interactions were identified during children’s digital play. Furthermore, it was found that although children showed high levels of engagement during digital play, only observing others does not always impact children’s engagement during digital play. Rather self-reflection influences how children engage and choose their own course of action within digital play. Early childhood educators and parents may find this paper useful in understanding various children’s social interactions during their digital play to program effective, appropriate and meaningful experiences for young children.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalEarly Childhood Education Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Digital play
  • Social behaviours
  • Social interactions
  • Social learning

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