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Studying portable media in young children’s lives: methodological and ethical challenges: Paper presented in Panel E: Growing up with portable digital media: a comparative European study of 0-3 year olds.

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Publication date31/10/2018
Number of pages1
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventPre-conference to ECREA 7th European Communication Conference: Children and Adolescents in a mobile media world. - Università pubblica svizzera italiano, Lugano, Italy
Duration: 31/10/201831/10/2018


ConferencePre-conference to ECREA 7th European Communication Conference: Children and Adolescents in a mobile media world.
Abbreviated titleECREA2018
Internet address


Very young children gain access to and use digital technology (touchscreen tablets, apps, smartphones) in a pace and extension never witnessed before. These speedy changes needs to be studied and documented as they happen, but this speedy transformation of childhood also needs to be called into question and critically analyzed. While we have sufficient knowledge on school children’s digital media use, empirical research on younger children (ages 0-3) is limited. An explanation for present knowledge gap on younger children and digital media is pointed out by Qvarsell (2003) who asserts that these children’s ways of communicating are direct and spontaneous. Their ways of expressing thoughts and feelings do not always go hand in hand with traditional social science methodology, where the ability to communicate orally or in writing has been a prerequisite. Various academic disciplines with an interest in younger children and digital media face several methodological and ethical challenges, which the presented paper addresses but also arguing for a strong need for methodological developments. All research teams applied the ‘A day in the life’ methodology (Gillen, Cameron, Tapanya, Pinto, Young & Gamannossi, 2007). The methodology for the study includes three visits to each participating family by two researchers – 1) Preliminary visit and pilot filming, 2) One day videofilming and 3) Discussion of the half hour compilation video. Key issues encountered through the stages of research design will be elaborated and critically reflected upon such as: 1 Recruitment, interview, negotiating subsequent degrees of data sharing and pilot videoing; 2 Videoing of a ‘day’ including following the child’s interactions with portable media and recording field notes; 3 Compilation of excerpts into a half hour video; 4 Co-watching and discussing the short video with the family, while recording this iterative event; 5 Further organization, transcription etc. and sharing of data or subsequent products according to previous agreements with local researchers and in the wider team 6 Combining researchers’ different disciplinary, national professional and personal standpoints; 7 Processes of writing up and dissemination. We will illustrate our discussions with examples from our data and reflections on processes that have surprised and challenged us. These exemplify Kuntz's (2015: 88) assertion: “Considerations of methodological responsibility… must extend beyond procedural ethics to the very ability to encounter and relate within unknown ways of knowing and coming to know.” We required a highly participatory approach to the study, considering methodological responsibility as dynamically shaped and reshaped in our relations with child, family, and data, in the moments of data collection and the afterlife of analysis and dissemination. At the heart of our methodology is the videoing of “A day in the Life” of a child under three years old. It is important to state that we make no claim to representativeness, either that this day is generalizable to the whole of the family’s life, and even less that it is representative of the culture or less national context. However, with our methodology that we apply sensitively, flexibly and ethically in context we can co-construct with our participants and fellow researchers multiple understandings (Gillen & Cameron 2010).