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Screen Time as Play Time: A Close-Up Analysis of Seven Young Children’s Sedentary Practices with Tablet Computers

Talk by Thomas Enemark Lundtofte, University of Southern Denmark

2019.05.16 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Tue 04 Jun
Time 11:00 13:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Building 1483-312



Recently, the World Health Organization stated, in their report on guidelines for children under five years of age, that children under two years of age should not engage in sedentary screen time, whereas children between two and five years of age should be restricted to a maximum of one hour per day (2019, p. 8). However, ‘screen time’ as a term in health and social sciences causes some confusion, as has also been pointed out in previous reports in the UK (Blum-Ross & Livingstone, 2016; Ofcom, 2017). I will be presenting data from my Ph.D. project in which I have researched how seven Danish children (ages 4-6 years) play with tablet computers in their homes. By employing the “Sociomaterial Points-of-View” video method (Lundtofte & Johansen, 2019), I have obtained video data from both ends of the interactions between children and tablets. This research project is framed in Practice Theory (Couldry, 2012; Gherardi, 2017; Reckwitz, 2002, 2017; Schatzki, Savigny, & Cetina, 2001) as well as a conceptualization of play as practices of mood and media (Bogost, 2016; Johansen, 2016; Karoff, 2013). In this presentation, I will demonstrate how sociomaterial practices with tablets can be viewed on a spectrum of absorbency and utensilency (Lundtofte, Odgaard, & Skovbjerg, forthcoming). By applying this spectrum to my video data through multiple iterations of coding, I am able to show how (1) the sociomaterial positions of children and tablets fluctuate and, furthermore, (2) how this relates to meaning-making processes and (3) other agencies in various situations. In conclusion, with this presentation I aim to challenge our understanding of play with screens by nuancing how it relates to mood, meaning-making, and social circumstances in Danish families.




Blum-Ross, A., & Livingstone, S. (2016). Families and screen time: Current advice and emerging research. Retrieved from London: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mediapolicyproject/

Bogost, I. (2016). Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games. New York: Basic Books.

Couldry, N. (2012). Media, society, world: social theory and digital media practice. Cambridge: Polity.

Gherardi, S. (2017). Sociomateriality in posthuman practice theory. In A. Hui, T. Schatzki, & E. Shove (Eds.), The Nexus of Practices (pp. 38-51). London: Routledge.

Johansen, S. L. (2016). Den medialiserede leg. In S. Hjarvard (Ed.), Medialisering - mediernes rolle i social og kulturel forandring (pp. 103-124). Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag.

Karoff, H. S. (2013). Play practices and play moods. International Journal of Play, 2(2), 76-86. doi:10.1080/21594937.2013.805650

Lundtofte, T. E., & Johansen, S. L. (2019). Video Methods: Researching Sociomaterial Points-of-View in Children's Play Practices with IoToys. In G. Mascheroni & D. Holloway (Eds.), The Internet of Toys: Practices, Affordances and the Political Economy of Children's Smart Play. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lundtofte, T. E., Odgaard, A. B., & Skovbjerg, H. M. (forthcoming). Absorbency and Utensilency: A Spectrum for Analysing Children’s Digital Play Practices. Global Studies of Childhood.

Ofcom. (2017). Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report. Retrieved from London: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/108182/children-parents-media-use-attitudes-2017.pdf

Reckwitz, A. (2002). Towards a theory of social practices a development in cultural theorizing. European journal of social theory, 5(2), 243-264.

Reckwitz, A. (2017). Practices and their Affects. In A. Hui, T. Schatzki, & E. Shove (Eds.), The Nexus of Practices (pp. 114-125). London: Routledge.

Schatzki, T. R., Savigny, E. v., & Cetina, K. K. (2001). The practice turn in contemporary theory. London: Routledge.

World Health Organization. (2019). Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/311664

About the speaker

Thomas Enemark Lundtofte, Department for the Study of Culture, SDU