Television and playground games as part of children's symbolic culture

Merris Griffiths, David Machin

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20 Citations (SciVal)


Using data from an ethnographic-style study of children aged 4–11, this paper considers the way that advertisements become absorbed and appropriated into broader and traditional forms of children's symbolic culture. The paper shows that children take on and relate to media imagery in much the same way as they relate to traditional playground culture of mythology, chants, games and jokes. The principle behind this is Halliday's (1978) observation that children communicate primarily with a desire to participate in social situations rather than for information. Children relate to television not so much in terms of the information value of what they see on it, but in relation to the way it allows them to join in, be party to common knowledge, to be in on the latest thing. This is an active process but, we argue, not in the way prescribed by the active audience trend in cultural studies. Television imagery and representations come to form part of a symbolic landscape of prestige, knowledge and points of reference of which children must have knowledge if they are not to be excluded from group membership, or at least lose prestige.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-160
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2003


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