The media is not the [whole] message

I’d like to thank Janet Price for drawing my attention to the November 24 issue of ExchangeEveryDay, which I’ll paraphrase here:

For decades parents and researchers have wondered if technology, especially television, is good or bad for kids. The answer it turns out is “It depends.” What it depends on is content.

Ellen Wartella, one of the editors of Children and Television: Fifty Years of Research, confirms that children can learn violence from media and thus develop a predisposition to anti-social behavior. Yet television shows with positive content can teach pro-social lessons and cognitive skills. For example, some studies show that young children who watch Mr. Rogers’ are more considerate of their peers, play well together, and share with others….Still, Wartella “urges parents to limit young children’s exposure to television and other digital media — because preschoolers need ‘real experiences with objects’.”

I really like this last sentence. It is the motivating factor behind the Interact and Expand buttons Miriam Smith and I included next to the playing space on each of the activities we conceived for the PBS Parents Guide to Creativity. Also, real experiences with objects lead to sensory satisfaction, something lacking in screen interaction (see also our 9-18-06 post: Ways of knowing become ways of living.)

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