Contemporary technology and 10-12 year old childhood constructions: a critical discourse analysis

Silcock, Elizabeth Mary
Hocking, Clare
Payne, Deborah
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Children’s use of contemporary technologies is a much debated topic in the literature. There are various opinions on the positive and negative effects of technology on childhood development. Much of this literature appears to be statistically based, or from adult observation. To help understand more about the socio-cultural context children are living in and how they are internalising this information, this research study asked the question: ‘What are the current discourses used by 10-12 year old children when talking about contemporary technologies such as mobile phones, the internet, console games and computers?’

Ten children aged between 10-12 years were recorded discussing and demonstrating the types of technology they regularly used at home. The children were purposely selected, with two being of Maori descent. The recorded interactions were transcribed verbatim and a Foucauldian discourse analysis was carried out to identify dominant discourses that emerged from the children’s discussions. These dominant discourses were interpreted using the philosopher Michel Foucault’s theories on the history of existence, power relations, the subject, and ethics of the self. Ethical approval was given for the research by the AUTEC research committee in October 2010. Three dominant discourses were identified in the analysis. Virtual reality as a new dimension; panoptic play; and technological play as risky. By analyzing these discourses the children in the research appeared to assume subject positions within their play that have been created by and through their technology use. These subject positions were created by the unique historical context of the present era and have allowed new relations of power to develop for the children. The discourses revealed by the children in this research appeared to indicate the emergence of norms of behaviour and relations of power unique to technological play. These norms and power relations also appeared to indicate a new form of ethical substance which may be contributing to the constitution of the children’s moral self.

Technology , Children , Discourse Analysis , Foucault
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