I attended a heated, yet needed, preschool discussion group at ALA Midwinter that focused on electronic media and young children. Whether or not screen time is healthy for kids is not a new debate, but it has become a hot button topic once again due to the recent questioning of the ‘no screen time before age 2’ guideline by members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) due to the ubiquity of electronic devices. A few points came out of the discussion that I’d like to highlight:
David Hill, spokesman for the AAP, stated in an interview with NPR, “While we acknowledged that mobile and interactive screens have become ubiquitous in children’s lives, we did not advocate for their wholesale adoption. I suspect that when they do come out, the statements will be highly conservative, reinforcing much of what we have said in the past about the known effects of electronic media use on child health and development.” As it stands now, the AAP hasn’t actually come to a complete consensus on the topic, they are simply reconsidering their position. Attempting to ignore children’s interaction with electronic media is Sisyphean task at this point and the AAP wants to remain relevant.
Several attendees expressed alarm at the lack of longitudinal studies on the affects of media on the health of young children and were outraged that the recommendations are being changed without such studies. One attendee asked that ALSC use its clout to demand the AAP conduct more thorough investigation into longitudinal studies. Some were concerned with the rise of cancers and behavior disorders associated with too much screen time. Others pointed out that electronic media can help neurodiverse kids with communication skills and to cope with sensory issues.
Some participants in the discussion recommended thinking about electronic sources (apps, ebooks, and streaming media) as just another part of the media diet. ALSC and the AAP recommend creating a family media plan (aka media diet) to help curb the overuse of electronic media, which does have significant risks.
What does this mean for librarians/media mentors– using iPads and ebooks in story time? Counseling families on media diets and plans? One of my colleagues uses Powerpoint to project large versions of book illustrations during story time for children with cerebral palsy and it works out great in that scenario.
As a parent, I find the screen time thing is a very sensitive subject among other parents, so I prefer to be more subtle. I’ll still use iPads to instruct tweens on how to navigate the library’s various databases, with homework help, and in our storytelling/sequential art programs. When it comes to the younger crowd, I’m going to begin offering tips for positive media engagement on our story time hand outs and hopefully that spurs some discussion with the adults. I think most caregivers appreciate our low tech story times due to the omnipresent nature of screens during the day to day, therefore I’m going to continue using my felt boards, books, and other manipulatives.
Sue McCleaf Nespeca and Linda L. Ernst, co-conveners of the Preschool Services Discussion Group, complied a fantastic list of resources for librarians and caregivers. Here are a few that I didn’t link to previously:
Children’s Hospital Boston – Orienting response.
Common Sense Media — “Common Sense is dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.” (from its mission statement). It is interesting to note that Common Sense has not reviewed media for children under age 2.
Fred Rogers Center – What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know When Choosing Tech For Young Children
Guerney, Lisa. Screen Time: How Electronic Media-From Baby Videos to Education software-Affects Your Young Child, with a new epilogue. Basic Books, 2007. Originally published as Into the Minds of Babes.
Guernsey, Lisa and Michael H. Levine. Tap, Click, Read. Growing Readers in a world of screens. Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint, 2015.
Institute for Learning and Brain Science – University of Washington. Search using “screen time” or other topics.
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Screen time use in children under 3 years old: a systematic review of the correlates. Helena Duch, Elisa M. Fisher, Ipek Ensari, and Alison Harrington.
LittleELit – Young children, new media, and libraries. A guide for incorporating new media into library collections, services, and programs for families and children ages 0-5. Amy Koester, ed., LittleELit, 2015.
Pediatrics – October 2001, Volume 128 / Issue 4. The Immediate Impact of Different Types of Television on Young Children’s Executive Function. Angeline S. Lillard, Jennifer Peterson.
TEDxRainrier – Simitri Christakis, MD, MPh. Professor of Pediatrics at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital Research Institute – Media and Children – topics of pacing of media and effects.