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There are new environments and new experiences to seek out and explore. There are problem-solving strategies to develop and implement. Whether children are spending time seated in a cardboard box or sitting in front of a laptop computer, the processes share many similarities Klug and Schell, Van Camp cites an NPD National Purchase Diary Panel and NPD Research study claiming that 91 percent of 2—aged children play video games in , with a follow-up study asserting that gaming among 2—5 year old children has increased the most.

Technology is ubiquitous for the youngest generation, and children now learn to use a mouse and interact with computer screens not too long after learning to walk. While the multimodal experiences of animated characters, audio-visual storybooks, kinesthetic response systems, customizable avatars, and rich 2-D and 3-D graphical environments engage multiple senses synergistically Yelland, , the limitation is that the nature of interaction is far different from face-to-face environments.

Subrahmanyam and Smahel posit that offline and online worlds are interconnected, noting that children may interact in some virtual environments with offline friends and in other virtual environments with strangers. Further, they note that digitally-mediated friendships are changing the nature of friendships, in general, and how youth interact with each other, in particular. Finally, they raise a question as to whether digital friendships offer the same level of support as a buffer against stress and isolation as traditional in-person friendships.

As situations either biological, social or otherwise change, Bateson contends that various species modify their play behaviors appropriately in new situations, forging new paths of development based on responses to situations. Since this is a newly developing arena, the repercussions of virtual playgrounds for young children are, as of yet, largely untested and speculative with long-term developmental effects yet to be determined. Traditional views of play shed light on the functions and processes of play, even within a virtual environment.

Vygotsky notes that when trying to problem-solve a phenomenon habitually occurring during play, including virtual play , children use language to or attempt to solve the task and to enlist the help of an available person for assistance. Typically, children in the preschool years begin to make this transition, entering into activities that encourage them to use objects in novel, unintended ways e. Meaning is preeminent and trumps action in the context of preschool play, propelling children toward optimal arousal in the zone of proximal development.

This developmental progression is scaffolded as needed by adults who may offer direction, support, and resources. However, since one of the fundamental purposes of play is to allow children the space to test out their abilities for self-regulation and self-control, is it important that play be performed in environments that, though monitored for safety, etc.

Accordingly, the features of virtual play environments for their youngest users need to be paradoxically structured to provide an appropriate framework, e.

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In particular, scaffolding of prosocial behavior is a distinct need as bullying and cyberbullying incidents peak in middle childhood and early adolescence. While virtual worlds like Club Penguin Online filter conversations and block standard insults, creative users can find ways around these limitations. Ostracism and isolation are still possibilities, even within carefully monitored virtual worlds, and initial research by Williams and Nida as well as others suggests that ostracism, in general, is linked to a variety of psychopathologies e.


While many virtual worlds for children require direct parental approval i. While adult monitors on a traditional playground will miss many of the subcurrents of aggressive dynamics, in a virtual space, where there is only an invisible filter as an omnipresent monitor, children quickly learn and teach each other ways of tricking the interface, potentially feeling even more bold given the seeming lack of adult presence.

The play landscape has been shifting steadily to include more virtual play opportunities, even for young children. As urban environments in particular struggle to provide safe and attractive play spaces and schools cut recess time and limit free play due to budgetary constraints and accountability measures Bergen and Fromberg, , children are spending more time not just in video game play including active play with PS4 and Nintendo systems but also in one of more than Bers et al. These virtual environments vary drastically in their frameworks and features. ScratchJr, based on constructivist learning principles Bers et al.

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A significant challenge of virtual environments is how, or even if, they replicate and extend these traditional types of play i. While elements of each can be seen in, respectively, motion-sensitive gaming consoles with play distributed over an internet connection , creation of characters and settings e. As these virtual environments continue to grow in popularity and as researchers conceive of ways to navigate the practical challenges of collecting data in virtual settings, there is a significant opportunity to better understand how virtual settings interact with traditional play settings to prepare children for their social, physical and cognitive roles in real life.

Internet technologies are still young. What is not clear at this juncture is whether children who are raised interacting regularly in virtual worlds will develop empathy in a different manner than other generations. Empathy development, from arousal to internalization, is a complex process that begins in early infancy.

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Ayala notes that empathy plays an important role in the development of morals, which is an attribute reserved for human nature morality is used here as a synonym for ethics. Empathy development places significant cognitive demands, though, so children do not fully develop their perspective-taking abilities until they have the ability to think abstractly around age Consequently, abstract thinking opens the doors to true empathy via perspective-taking as well as the opportunity to utilize empathy in abstract realms such as hypothetical scenarios and virtual domains such as gaming.

Then, speech accompanies the action, describing it, and, finally, speech precedes the action, helping to plan it. Planning and self-regulation abilities are tightly related to the development of executive functions Elliott, seated in the prefrontal cortex. Further, Vygotsky posits that, by using language as a problem-solving tool, children learn to master not only their environment, but also their own behavior.

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The amount of speech used increases as the difficulty of the task at hand increases. Therefore, social-emotional development cannot occur without the development of cognitive skills. This paper next investigates how technology was used in children with ASD to teach SEL skills, and discusses the impact of virtual networking via social networks or gaming and culture on SEL development.

In children diagnosed with ASD, significant deficits in social reciprocity and communication skills occur. Because this diagnosis represents an example of an atypical SEL style, we will discuss representative results of the most recent research on technology used to teach social-emotional skills to people with ASD. Tager-Flusberg notes that: […] studies of children with autism suggest that such children treat theory-of-mind tasks as logical-reasoning problems, relying primarily on language and other nonsocial cognitive processes in lieu of social insight.

Children with autism generally have executive-function deficits that require planning, flexibility, or working memory combined with inhibitory control. Previous research results show that children with ASD are more responsive to technology than to usual human interaction e. Good et al. People with ASD are more attuned to the mechanics of mouth movement rather than mouth-eyes feedback processing, according to two literature reviews Falck-Ytter and von Hofsten, ; Guillon et al. These findings suggest that people with autism may be less concerned with the larger perspective of how things work together and their combined effects when assembling social-communication messages.

As such, the body of research on the effects of technology on the learning of children with autism has grown exponentially in the past couple of decades. The following selected examples from the literature show that researchers are testing improved ways to teach social skills to children with autism.

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Boyd et al. A single-subject ABAB design of four dyads revealed that cooperative virtual gaming can promote developing social skills at various levels of intimacy between players in a dyad. Even if gaming on tablets does not require human mediation, the partner of the dyad is inherently human, therefore, the relationship connection occurred on a common ground. When investigating how Minecraft impacts social skills in neurodiverse youth including ASD , Zolyomi and Schmaltz found that virtual games provide opportunities for youth to: use it as a model for real life imaginative play; use the game avatars to connect with one another and to their therapists in real life; understand that behaving well in the virtual space will upgrade them to moderators and generalize this progression to the real environment; and express themselves further in the online medium by making YouTube videos for other youth.

The authors conclude that the virtual environment has the potential to scaffold social learning and they recommend that families and programs for neurodiverse youth embed mediated pro-social software platforms into their practices. Bozgeyikli et al. The group of researchers followed up with a systematic literature review synthesizing challenges in design and best practices in designing VR training for children with ASD Bozgeyikli et al.

In another literature review, Jaliaawala and Khan analyze 31 studies employing computer-based computer aided systems, computer vision assisted technologies, VR and artificial intelligence interventions used to teach children with ASD facial expressions. They reach the conclusion that research is far from developing a comprehensive technology-based intervention with a clinical impact on autism because of inconsistency in research methods used, although these interventions show much promise. The fact that technology has been shown to be effective in teaching social skills to people with ASD, with the caveat that the generalization of trained behaviors is slow to occur, compels us to agree with Parsons and Mitchell that VR has the potential to teach social behaviors to children with ASD offering role-playing opportunities to practice social conventions. Therefore, technology can be used as a tool for SEL growth, but with necessary human mediation, based on rigorous previous research i. The quality of the interaction with technology is one of the elements that researchers can control to set the stage for the quality of Social and Emotional Learning.

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It is interesting to note that the best-practice technology guidelines are increasingly mimicking human interaction due to the uniqueness of human connection. Online networking with its main characteristic: interaction and other mobile and internet networking applications afford both advantages and disadvantages for human connection. Social networking followers can generate momentum for an issue or need by sharing articles and information and generating word of mouth buzz in support of an effort, much as people have raised awareness, donations and other types of assistance for people or geographical regions in distress.

In this way, reading about the plight of imagined victims, even at a distance, can propel people into action, presumably by arousing empathy for the victims. By extension, when playing games, certain empathic aspects can be turned on or off, depending on the nature and purpose of the game e.

The importance of empathy

Further, facial recognition platforms for mobile phones are developed to assist people with autism in understanding the emotions of the people around them Cho et al. Physicians and psychotherapists use internet technologies to meet with clients virtually, alleviating social anxiety and providing a platform for expression of the real self as well as creating online communities of support for various issues of health and well-being.

In tertiary education, online programs are becoming more popular, including for programs that are preparing social and human services professionals with a desired profile of high empathic abilities, such as teachers, therapists and nurses. On the other hand, Hancock et al. In limiting humanity in such a manner, Lanier proposes that internet technologies squelch real advances and dull real human connections. It is clear that both sides of the social networking and empathy debate have credible arguments with examples to illustrate their points.

Some research points to the limits of computer simulation in stimulating mirror neurons e. Dickerson et al. Socialization processes help shape cultural expectations for youth, including what role technology will play in their everyday lives. In fact, people have an innate need to form networks with others. In that case, culture plays a role in shaping empathy today since social networking plays a central role in culture, both online and in person.

Your efforts must never produce learned monsters or skilled psychopaths. Christakis found that touch-screen technologies seem more likeable than passively watching a screen TV or than playing with blocks, as measured by cortisol levels in the saliva of 15—18 month olds. However, traditional toys such as playing blocks are the only ones that are three-dimensional, and it has been found Christakis in a video recording as cited in Cooper, that children do not transfer the knowledge from learning to manipulate play blocks in 2D a screen to 3D i.

Similarly, it has been shown that actions possible in a game real affordances are not necessarily the same as the actions that players perceive as possible perceived affordances Cardona-Rivera and Young, Social associates tend to shape our ideas and practices, so it is imperative that society uses that influence for the good.

However, schools can and should do both.