Screen time, Media Literacy and the preschool set

For young children, hands-on creative play is more important than screen time of any kind. .

According to the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, estimates of how much time preschoolers spend on average with screen media range from at least 2.2 hours to as much as 4.6 hours per day.

That’s a lot.

Today, I am alerting teachers and parents to two resources to help you shepherd children through their screen-filled world.

For teachers: CCFC has produced a guide for early childhood educators to help with decisions about screen technologies. It provides an overview of the research and offers guidance for early childhood programs on how to include screen technologies, and how to be screen-free.

Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education

…[T]here is enough evidence to draw these conclusions: Many young children are spending too much time with screens at the expense of other important activities. There’s no evidence that screen time is educational for infants and toddlers, and there is some evidence that it may be harmful. Some carefully monitored experience with quality content can benefit children over 3.

For parents: Since children are engaging with media starting from such a young age, it’s important that parents be prepared to start teaching media literacy early, as well.

Author Rebecca Hains has provided a very helpful series directed at parents on Media Literacy for preschoolers on her blog. Below, a quick overview.

Part 1: How media work

I love that my preschooler has a basic understanding of how advertisements work. He knows that they exist to sell things. Television ads are not neutral purveyors of information; they have an angle, an agenda. They’re trying to get us to do something–to buy something. Considering how relentlessly marketers target kids nowadays, it’s really important for kids to be armed with this basic understanding.

Part 2: Thinking critically about media content

Active viewing is key. This means I talk with my son about what we are seeing. I talk back to the screen, share my ideas and concerns with my son, and respond to anything he says, too.

Part 3: Understanding that media are created

Very young children can have a hard time understanding that what’s on screen is created by other people, and not just a window into some other location in the world.

Part 4: Tips and resources
Conversation starters, books and ideas for creating media with your child:

Marketers love positioning kids as consumers. There are entire books on the topic, written to help people in the industry encourage your children to consume media and merchandise–and to pester you to spend as much money as possible on their behalf.
Teach your child that he or she can break out of that box and be a creator, too.

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