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The Study of Play (April 2019): Contemporary Playtime Challenges

By Charles Kroncke and Ronald F. White

Contemporary Playtime Challenges

Contemporary playtime scholars focus on social challenges that shape and reshape human play: supervised versus unsupervised play, male versus female play, competitive versus noncompetitive play, violent versus nonviolent play, cooperative versus noncooperative play, and sex play.

Supervision is a concern in all areas of childhood play. The nature and extent of adult supervision of childhood play is at issue, be those adults parents, teachers, or others adults. Also at issue is the intent of adult supervised playtime activities and whether unsupervised play might promote those intentions more effectively. Parents can encourage (or discourage) various forms of child’s play at home and in local communities. Many scholars propose various legal constraints that might reduce the incidence of bad playtime parenting. Tamara Mose’s The Playdate: Parents, Children, and the New Expectations of Play contrasts the rise of parentally scheduled playdates with the decline of spontaneous play among young children.

Sex play among children at various ages is a sensitive issue, but sex play is one of the least-studied and least-discussed subjects among playtime scholars. Many of these questions are addressed by Jacky Kilvington and Ali Wood in Gender, Sex, and Children’s Play. The authors guide teachers and caregivers through gender roles as they relate to children. American culture tends to discourage scholars from engaging in studies that explore childhood sex play as a natural phenomenon. But one can find a great many works that address sex play from the standpoint of aberrant sex play from a clinical perspective. One such work is Eliana Gill and Jennifer Shaw’s Working with Children with Sexual Behavior Problems. One of the more recent puzzles associated with sex play is the use of communication technology, especially sexting on cell phones. Two books on this subject are highly recommended: Judith Davidson’s Sexting: Gender and Teens and Amy Adele Hastinoff’s Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent.

Works Cited