Engagement and immersion in digital play: supporting young children’s digital wellbeing

Kelly Johnston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


For many families, young children’s engagement with screen-based technology is an ongoing concern in terms of physical, social and cognitive development. They are uneasy with the difficulty children have disengaging from screens and concerned that this behavior is obsessive or a sign of addiction. However, technology is recognized as having a “rightful role” in early childhood contexts. This scoping paper reports on a review of literature relating to digital play for children aged birth to five years, with the aim of further understanding digital wellbeing. Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory serves as a theoretical framework for understanding why many young children enjoy digital play and become deeply engaged, with a disconnect between how young children and adults perceive digital play. Concerns about children’s deep immersion with digital play are interrogated to understand the connections with perceived addictive traits. The review highlights the critical importance of supporting children’s agency and digital citizenship skills from a young age, including the ability to critique content, balance screen-time with non-screen time and to develop self-control and self-regulation as a means to promote long-term positive outcomes for children in their digital lifeworlds and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10179
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • digital technology
  • young children
  • self-regulation
  • wellbeing
  • flow theory


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