06 SES 04, Media Education: Parental strategies
The sudden changes in children´s developmental environments and technology use raise concerns, excitement and hope for many parents. It appears that parents worry how to support a balanced growth of their children, including preventing them from improper technology contents (Plowman et al., 2010) or preventing children´s technology use to expose them other activities (e.g. social interaction, play and outdoor activities) (Plowman et al., 2010; Takeuchi 2011). Simultaneously parents are enthusiastic and satisfied with their children´s skills to use technology that is considered to be a necessary skill currently and in the future (Plowman et al., 2010). One way for parents to provide a safe and stimulating environment to support their children´s balanced growth and learning is to use technologies together. Regardless of this prominent aspect in children´s lives, studies in information and communication technologies (ICT) are rarely focused on children and families (Stevenson 2011). The emphasis has also been in studying the amount of technology use in families while the family practices have been less studied. In this study the term ´technology´ refers to the wide spectrum of technical tools and software, yet emphasizing digital technology and media, such as ICT.
Studies concerning parental strategies in shared technology-based situations are traditionally based on studies about television use (e.g. Eastin et al., 2006; Takeuchi 2011). For example, Valkenburg and her colleagues (1999) described three parental strategies where a parent acts in instructive mediation including discussions of parents and children concerning the TV contents; restrictive mediation where parents regulate and limit the television watching of children; or socialco-viewing where parents watch on TV with children. Technology development challenged the traditional parental strategies that focused on TV watching and, therefore, Clark (2011) suggested fourth parental strategy, participatory learning. Central to this strategy are learner centered activities, free experiments and play.
There appears to be a shortage of studies investigating parental actions and strategies in technology-based activities regarding families with children with special needs. Among the few studies, Bourke-Taylor et al. (2013) described that the most children with Cerebral Palsy need parental support in using technology. For example, some of these children are not able to watch TV or listen to music without support and, therefore, parents face challenges not only how to use technology together with their child but also how to enable technology use for their child per se.
The purpose of this research was to examine how parents act in technology-based activities with their children with special needs. The current study was conducted in technology clubs where children with special needs utilized various technologies, mostly do-it-yourself software for Kinect for Xbox 360, LEGO NXT robots, large touch screens or large tiles with changeable symbol cards (Kärnä et al. 2010). Currently, technology clubs for children with special needs and their parents are rare globally and their participation in long-term technology design makes the study unique. The actual importance of the technology clubs is connected with the goal to provide children and parents with opportunities to influence in their environment and development of technology that they use themselves. Promoting participation of all children is based on the Convention on the rights of the child (United Nations 1989) and national laws.
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