Left to their own devices? A mixed methods study exploring the impacts of smartphone use on children’s outdoor experiences

Jonas Vestergaard Nielsen*, Jan Arvidsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

The growing use of smartphones has been pointed out as one of the main reasons for the decrease in children’s outdoor time. However, there is still a gap in our understanding of how smartphone use affects children’s outdoor experiences and activities. The aim of the study is to explore children’s dependency on their smartphones, what smartphone functions children use when outdoors and how smartphone use affects children’s outdoor experiences. The study uses a mixed methods design which implements interviews with a small sample of children (N = 34) in order to help develop a questionnaire for a larger sample (N = 1148). Both datasets are included in the analysis with a complimentary perspective. The results suggest that children are highly dependent on having their smartphones available as an integrated part of their lives. However, smartphones also create favorable conditions for rich and valuable outdoor lives by expanding children’s and parents’ sense of security, children’s outdoor sociality, and children’s opportunities to mold their outdoor experiences. We stress that children’s passion for the digital world needs to be reconsidered as not ‘all bad’, but more as a condition in modern children’s lives and an asset to embrace in future strategies for actively engaging children in outdoor activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3115
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number6
Number of pages15
ISSN1661-7827
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18. Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Children
  • Interviews
  • Mixed methods
  • Mobile technology
  • Nature
  • Outdoor experiences
  • Questionnaire
  • Smartphones

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