Discouraging News on the Media Lit Frontier

Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America, p 11

The New York Times has reported on a Common Sense Media (CSM) sponsored study, Zero to Eight, Children’s Media Use in America (PDF). The Times article, Screen Time Higher Than Ever for Children, describes the study and points out that kids are in front of a screen more than ever despite the recommendations of their doctors.

After reading this I am feeling a bit more pessimistic than usual. Adults are used to tossing health caution to the wind for themselves, but we were vigilant about protecting the health of our children. Now we seem to  disregard the recommendations of pediatricians — the very people who can help us do the most possible to ensure that our kids grown into strong and productive adults. Are we as a society less and less concerned about the development of strong minds? Times reporter Tamar Lewin writes:

Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ longstanding recommendations to the contrary, children under 8 are spending more time than ever in front of screens…

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Begone Spam and Unwanted E-mails! Some Helpful Resources

I hate receiving so much unwanted e-mail! In my family we follow most of the rules. We don’t sign up for contests or take quizzes. We don’t post our e-mail addresses in strange places, and we never forward chain letters or respond to the many ridiculous things that arrive in our electronic mailboxes. Yet the message glut is frustrating everyone in my family on a daily basis

Of course some of the mail arrives because I’ve signed up for alerts or news, but other messages arrive for unknown reasons. After ordering from a catalog, I’m often asked to provide my e-mail address so a confirmation can be sent — which I like. But then, suddenly, I start receiving daily messages — which I don’t like. In fact, when a store or catalog starts sending me several e-mails a week, my inclination is not to order from them again.

I recently read, The Best Way to Stop Spam and Unwanted E-mail, an October 21, 2011 post over at Techlicious. Written by Kara Trivunovic, this short piece sets the record straight about using the unsubscribe link at the bottom of unwanted messages — a feature many people are hesitant to use. Continue reading

Pediatricians Recommend No Screens for Kids Under Age 2

Yesterday I wrote about a newspaper article that described the updated American Academy of Pediatrics media recommendations for children under two years of age. Here’s the direct link to the updated policy statement, Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years from the journal Pediatrics. The entire document is easily accessible and free, about four pages of reading plus footnotes.

A Few Quotes from the Document

  • The educational merit of media for children younger than 2 years remains unproven despite the fact that three-quarters of the top-selling infant videos make explicit or implicit educational claims. Continue reading

The Television Broke Down and Six Years Later We Replaced It

Click to check out these American Academy of Pediatrics resources.

Read No TV for Children Under 2 Doctors’ Group Urges, in the October 18, 2011 New York Times. This isn’t a new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), just a reminder of how seriously they believe in their media literacy recommendations.

I don’t mention this often, but 30 years ago when our television broke, we had a new baby and not enough money, so we decided to put off the purchase of a new TV. The delay went on for six years until our daughter was seven years old. Originally we did not make a decision out of any deep philosophical principles — and back then there was a lot less research about the effect of TV-watching on young children — we simply did not have money that we wanted to spend on a new set just then (or we had other things we wanted to purchase — I really don’t remember). However, gradually we forgot our plans to purchase a new television because we liked what happened in our family.

We read more, we listened to music more, we ate less junk food, and during the times we were at home, we played lots of games and went to the park almost every day after we returned from work. By age 2-and-a-half our daughter could beat both of us at any memory game we put out on the table. We also read aloud, all the time. In fact, we read so much that sometimes we needed to go to the public library twice a week. Listening to the radio, sometimes NPR and at other times classical or oldies was a regular activity, and we went to movies.

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Is It Spying or Is It Parenting?

A look at the browsing history in Safari

Recently I read Tracy Grant’s article, The Case for Spying on Your Kids, in the October 5, 2011 Washington Post, and it’s well worth reading. Grant believes that parents should keep close track of their children’s online activities. After I finished the article I decided it’s unfortunate that so many people equate keeping an eye on a child’s digital activities with spying. It’s not spying.

From my perspective, it’s just fine for parents to closely supervise the digital activities of kids, just like parents supervise non-digital endeavors. Understanding what’s going on, setting limits, teaching children to follow website rules, and defining expectations — as children encounter more and smaller personal computers and digital gadgets — are important responsibilities. Knowing what’s going on is a part of parenting.

Yet learning about what’s going on takes time, a scarce resource for many adults, and the situation gets even more complicated because the digital skills of many children outpace their parents.

Grant describes her conversation with Steven Balkam of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) (this organization has a website that parents may want to explore), and she also mentions a new monitoring service, SafetyWeb

In Grant’s article Balkam points out, “The history button on a computer is a very important tool for parents.”

The digital world offers many opportunities to help children learn, collaborate, and grow as digital citizens, and we want our children to become literate and savvy consumers of online resources. Strong digital parenting — even when a parent is in awe of a child’s online prowess — is one of the ways to ensure that children grow into confident, respectful, and competent learners.

I recommend reading the book Born Digital, by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. The authors, from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, focus on the changing nature of growing up in the digital world.