GIOCO (engl. PLAY) is a project with children, adolescents and parents in Italian-speaking Switzerland conducted between 2024 and 2027.
Play is crucial for the socio-emotional and cognitive development of children and adolescents. In the transition from childhood to adolescence, offline play, such as active play on playgrounds or playing fields, is increasingly substituted by more sedentary play such as playing board games and video gaming. In addition, today's children are the first generation to grow up with what can be termed ‘hybrid’ play in the form of toys connected to the internet and commanded remotely.
In light of these recent trends, the project "The role of offline, hybrid, and online play in socio-emotional and cognitive functioning among school-aged children and adolescents: A mixed-methods study" (Italian: Gioco Ibrido, Online e Offline (GIOCO): Sviluppi e ruolo nel funzionamento socio-emotivo e cognitivo dei giovani), funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, aims to explore how school-aged children and adolescents play today and how play is linked to their socio-emotional and cognitive development.
This 4-year project uses a mixed-methods design: Study 1 encompasses a qualitative focus-group study to explore recent trends in offline, hybrid, and online play among school-aged children and adolescents, motivations for play, and to what extent the different forms of play are guided by adults. Study 2 comprises a deductive-inductive content analysis of categorizations of play available in the scientific and grey literature and based on insights from the focus groups to create a holistic map of offline, hybrid, and online play. Study 3 includes a longitudinal study in which an online questionnaire will be administered three times over two years to investigate the reciprocal relationship between offline, hybrid, and online play and socio-emotional and cognitive functioning in children and adolescents, taking into consideration personal and contextual factors to explain potential disparities. Study 4 consists of an evidence collection to formulate recommendations and co-creation workshops that bring together children, adolescents, parents, and educators to jointly design an intervention to promote age-appropriate leisure play which is beneficial for socio-emotional and cognitive development during childhood and adolescence.
The project will advance our understanding of the complex relationships between offline, hybrid, and online play and socio-emotional and cognitive functioning during the early developmental years.