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Children’s Virtual Play Worlds

Culture, Learning, and Participation

Series:

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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3. Developmental Implications of Children’s Virtual Worlds

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c h a p t e r t h r e e Developmental Implications of Children’s Virtual Worlds Kaveri Subrahmanyam Introduction As virtual worlds for young children have increased in popularity, it is important to determine what exactly children do when they participate in such contexts and, equally critical, the potential of such participation to mediate their development— in particular, the costs and benefits that might accrue to children as a result of their participations in these online forums. Not surprisingly, research on this topic is sparse and in order to understand the implications of virtual worlds for children, we will use extant social science research on youth and other digital media such as video games and online contexts such as chat rooms, instant messaging, and social networking sites. Like video games, virtual worlds are three-dimensional, interac- tive, online fantasy worlds, and like online communication forums, they enable par- ticipants to create online selves and to interact and communicate with other users. We begin the chapter by presenting a theoretical framework to understand the potential role of electronic media in young people’s lives; specifically, we present pathways by which these newer forms of media can potentially mediate develop- ment. Then we review existing research on youth and interactive media (video games and online media). Next, we examine the following three research questions in order to understand children’s virtual world participation and the developmen- tal implications of these online activities: (1) What do young children do in virtual worlds and, in...

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