Background to the Study

This study focused on young children's use of popular culture, media and new technologies. These terms can be defined, in the context of this study, thus:

•  ‘Popular culture…refers to those cultural texts, artefacts and practices which are attractive to large numbers of children and which are often mass produced on a global scale' (Marsh, 2005a:2).

The aspects of children's popular culture considered in this study
were: toys; games; media; and artefacts related to popular
narratives, characters and icons.

•  ‘Media' is a term used for materials and resources in a range of formats and modes which are used for communication. In this study, the following media were considered: books, comics and magazines, newspapers, television programmes and films.

•  ‘New technologies' is used to refer to technological innovations that have been made possible through digitisation. It can include ‘old' technologies, such as radio and television, which have been transformed through the digital signal. In this study, the following technologies were considered: television, radio, computers, console games, hand-held computers, mobile phones.

There have been a number of surveys of children and young people's media use over the last decade (Livingstone and Bober, 2005; Livingstone and Bovill, 1999). However, none of these studies have explored the media use of children under the age of six in England . The most comprehensive survey to date of this youngest age group is the report Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers (Rideout, Vandewater and Wartella, 2003). This details the findings from a telephone survey of 1,065 families in the United States . This survey indicated that many young children's lives are media-rich and that they are developing a wide range of skills, knowledge and understanding of media from birth. The study reported that children are surrounded by a wide array of media and technology in the home and they actively use it from a young age. In England, there have been a number of small-scale case studies of young children's use of popular culture, media and new technologies (see Marsh, 2004a; 2004b; 2005) which have indicated the pervasive role these texts and artefacts play in young children's lives. The current study draws from and builds upon these earlier studies.


The Digital Beginnings project is sponsored by BBC worldwide and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation