Young Children and the Use of Video Chat: - Exploring User Behaviour and the Influence of Technical Factors
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The use of video chat applications is increasing, both in private and professional settings. There has been much focus in the literature on, for example, how and in what contexts applications for video chats are used, and on which factors affect the users' Quality of Experience (QoE), with two or more party video calls, and how insight into these factors can lead to better user experiences. However, most of these studies have concentrated on video chat sessions in general, and predominantly focus on adult user groups. However, children have become a growing and important - yet for various reasons under-investigated - user group of such applications as well. Thus, this thesis aims to contribute to the literature by explicitly focusing on a younger age group. More concretely, in this thesis, the main objective is to gain a better insight in how children in the age from 6 months to 7 years use (either alone or as participants) video chat, and how various (e.g. technical, but also non-technical) factors influence engagement and QoE in this context. Three different empirical studies have been conducted, using different research methods: An internet-based survey (N=87), home observations of video chat sessions (N=6), and focus groups with young children in second grade of primary school (N=21). All three studies have complemented each other, and have given insight into how young children use video chat. The results indicate how widespread the use is, and which factors might influence a video chat session, where young children participate. Some of the main findings are that the most frequent conversation partners are grandparents, and the frequency of use is higher among families having relatives living far away. Furthermore, important influencing factors in the setting of young children and video chat sessions are the content itself, the children's age and attention level, family relationships, level of experience with video chat, connection problems, and video quality. Interestingly, children - even the younger ones - do tend to notice quality impairments, yet they react in different ways and age plays an important role in this respect.However, more research is needed before the results can be generalized. Also, it is desirable to improve the research methods for video chat and QoE, so that they are more tailored to young children as an important user group.