Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Join or Create a Guest Account
2017 Conference - Affordances for Social Interaction in Virtual Worlds for Young Children
Share |

In recent decades, the Internet has become an increasingly pervasive socializing agent in children’s lives, as children venture into online spaces designed for social interaction such as online games like Poptropica and virtual worlds like Club Penguin. Many of these sites are designed specifically for children, with a goal of providing many of the engaging and interactive features of traditional virtual worlds within a safe and adult-monitored online space. Achieving the aforementioned “safe” spaces often involves restricting online activities via limited communication features and continuous monitoring. However, such restrictions also may limit the ways in which young users can use language to connect with one another to form meaningful relationships and participate in social groups or online communities. Looking specifically at virtual worlds designed for children, this study explores the ways in which design features both support and hinder children’s efforts in using language to establish interpersonal connections, form cohesive groups, and develop community in these online spaces.

To explore how users might communicate and meaningfully connect to one another in virtual worlds designed specifically for children, in-depth content analyses of these spaces were conducted in conjunction with unobtrusive observations of public spaces for over 2000 hours within these worlds. Data were analyzed using an open-ended, qualitative protocol that focused on the design features of the virtual worlds including such things as communication systems, activities, social spaces, and the interactions between users in the virtual worlds and on the fan sites.

Analyses reveal that the design features of many of these sites hinder authentic and linguistically robust communication. However, data also suggest that users find creative ways to bypass restrictive design features in order to share personal information, display affiliations, form cohesive groups, and perhaps even build communities online.

Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal