When I was growing up media consisted of the Television- a total of 5 channels (cable was around, but we didn’t have it), a VCR, a Nintendo (the result of a particularly traumatizing dentist appointment that my Dad had taken me to), eventually a GameBoy, a computer (that my mother “borrowed” from the school she taught at), a record/tape/radio combination stereo, and books.
I don’t even know where to begin with what is considered “media” today! There are ipods playing songs from YoGabbaGabba, DVD players in minivans playing the Princess and the Frog, laptop computers with A Bug’s Life CD-Rom software (although that seems to be nearly extinct), ipads with Sesame Street apps, smartphones & iphones with apps that translate your child’s voice into a cute squeaky guinea pig voice , regular old Television programs like SuperWhy (that you can now get in High Definition on cable, satellite, or online on demand), new motion sensored video games like theNintendo Wii, handheld video game players like PSP, and online interactive storybooks of the 3 Little Pigs… I could go on forever, but instead I will provide you with a Sesame Street clip called “There’s an App for That”.
Given all of these technologies and all of the content that is now “out there”. How do parents decide what programs/games/books/music/content to show/play/interact/use with their kids? In a world of instant replies via email and blog posts about everything, are parents supposed to rely on “word of mouth” (which now exists via telephone, Facebook, email, etc) or base their purchases/downloads on reviews and product descriptions and their own best guess?
Should there be some sort of Children’s Quality Media Guru? A resource that offers advice on what apps to buy for your 2-year-old versus your 8-year-old? A guide that can tell you what is required to play the newest top app Bubble Ball (created by a 14-year-old boy)? A checklist of questions parents might want to ask before purchasing media for their child? Do parents want/need help with these questions?
Earlier this week the Fred Rogers Center held a roundtable discussion at Erikson Institute with 30 impressive people in the fields of child development and media production/creation to discuss just this issue. Given all of the technology out there, how do we help creators and parents decide what “quality” media is for young children? Lisa Guernsey at the New America Foundation wrote an excellent blog about the event.
But my question is really to parents… what questions are you asking before downloading new material for your young children? Who are you asking for advice? How do you decide what IS and what is NOT quality media for your children? Help! How do you decide what is quality media for your young children?