Living journals: young children and digital media practices in Azerbaijani families
The aim of this qualitative study was to explore young children’s digital media practices at home in Azerbaijan. Five families, each including a five-year-old child, participated in multiple case studies over a period of 15 months in 2018-2019. The study generated data through a total of 15 family visits in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and the use of ‘living journals’, a method developed for this purpose. Given its focus on the everyday lives of children, the study is informed by ecocultural theory, but also draws on the concepts of prolepsis and parental ethnotheories. The research questions were: 1. How can we explore young children’s digital media practices within their family context? 2. How does the family influence the child’s digital media practices? 3. How do parents mediate their young children’s digital media practices? The study addressed the first research question through the development of the living journals method. This method facilitated a remote exploration of children’s daily lives: mothers were initiated as proxy researchers, thereby decentring the researcher in the data generation process. Families commented both on the completed journals relating to their own child, as well as those created by other participant children. The journals existed in both physical and digital formats, and were a source of visually rich multimodal, multivocal, metatextual, and multifunctional data. This approach constitutes a valuable methodological contribution to the range of options available to researchers who want to study everyday lives from afar. Research questions two and three have led to three main empirical contributions. First, the living journals method revealed fathers’ views on digital media and the extent of their involvement in their children’s digital media practices. The findings demonstrated fathers’ considerable influences on their children’s practices as they were authoritative figures at home. Parents assumed different roles in mediating children’s digital media practices, with fathers being active in setting rules but mothers more involved in the day-to-day management of these practices. Second, the case studies showed how family context influenced children’s digital media practices. This included parental preferences for the availability of certain types of devices and the language of digital media content to which children were exposed, as well as mothers’ attempts to balance being a ‘good’ parent with managing relations with each other, their children, and extended family members. Third, a new parental mediation strategy was identified and termed as ‘subterfuge’. Subterfuge relates to restricting young children’s uses of digital technologies indirectly by shifting the blame onto inanimate objects. This strategy was contextual and situated, and was typically established by fathers but executed by mothers.