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Children’s Virtual Play Worlds

Culture, Learning, and Participation


Edited By Anne Burke and Jackie Marsh

As children’s digital lives become more relevant to schools and educators, the question of play and learning is being revisited in new and interesting ways. Children’s Virtual Play Worlds: Culture, Learning, and Participation provides a more reasoned account of children’s play engagements in virtual worlds through a number of scholarly perspectives, exploring key concerns and issues which have come to the forefront. The global nature of the research in this edited volume embraces many different areas of study from school based research, sociology, cultural studies, psychology, to contract law showing how children’s play and learning in virtual spaces has great potential and possibilities.
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5. Breaking the ice: Play, friendships and online identities in young children’s use of virtual worlds


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Breaking the Ice

Play, Friendships, and Online Identities in Young Children’s Use of Virtual Worlds


Playful interactions with technological toys and games have become increasingly significant in young children’s lives over a number of years. It is inevitable that this should be the case, given the way in which toys reflect the zeitgeist of a given era, as Marina Warner notes:

In one of the essays in Mythologies, Roland Barthes excoriated the toys of the time: “French toys are like a Jivaro head,” he writes, “in which one recognizes, shrunken to the size of an apple, the wrinkles and hair of the adult.” For the toy industry, like children’s publishing, always interacts with contemporary values and mores, instrumentalizing the psyche. (Warner, 2009, p. 15)

The move to the development of online play facilities for young children in recent years can, therefore, be viewed as another indication of this phenomenon.

In this chapter, I look at children’s playful engagement with an online Disney product, the virtual world Club Penguin. Virtual worlds offer important contexts for early socialisation and it is, therefore, important to examine the practices that occur in these environments. The chapter outlines findings from a study of young children’s use of Club Penguin and examines the way in which online identities and social friendships are developed and managed through play in a virtual environment. ← 59 | 60...

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