Weekday Wednesday: Children and Media

Do you recognize this expression?

Do you recognize this expression?

In November, I attended NAEYC in Washington, DC. Always an educational event, and always challenging. Although much of my excitement this year was over the opportunity to present 1 of 6 (Out of 600+, which is another issue) of the religious sessions, the sessions on media’s impact on the developing brain only heightens my sense of urgency that we make every effort to limit children’s exposure to media beyond print.

Diane Levin, Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts, presented on ways to connect with children “Beyond Remote Controlled Childhood”. The room of 300+ educators were visibly concerned at the end. Here are a few of my notes from the lecture. Just a little something to think about as we faithfully form our children…

  • Hasbro has its first app out where children can play with play-doh on their mobile devices > what happens to development of fine motor skills and the imagination?
  • Right from the start parents are told that they need to be ready for the future through media literacy
  • 3 hours per day spent at screens by Infants to 8 year olds (Common Sence Media research)
  • Families are changing, and we need to think about where bonding actually happens in an age when everyone has a screen in their hands
  • Can kids experience a story through a screen?
  • Children are spending time with screens instead of outdoors, and when outdoors
  • RCC (Remote Controlled Childhood) > WHAT do children learn? > What do children WANT to learn? > HOW do children learn?

levin book 2 What are children learning about GENDER

  • Boys and Violence
    • linked to toys and companies like Legos, Star Wars, Ninja Turtles – Companies who committed to non-violence were losing money so they changed their standards
    • Disney bought the Star Wars brand to widen its reach when the interest in their wholesome characters waned
    • Morning, Noon, Night – PG-13 movies are advertised on cereal boxes, lunch boxes, pajamas, etc (Star Wars, Spiderman)
    • Children use play to act out what they hear and see – Oklahoma bombing, school shootings, Iraqi War
    • Pretend or Real? How do concrete learners know the difference?
  • SSSS So Sexy So Soon for Girls
    • Girls are sexualized
    • Play-doh – Prettiest Princess Castle – how does this effect children’s play?
    • Barbie cell Phone charm school and Barbie movie
    • Marketers knew that they could market to children early concerning gender, and many of today’s parents grew up in the time of the deregulation of how children are marketed to
    • Playing is making yourself pretty – Barbie Hairdo set (Note to Self: I begged my parents for one of these and really enjoyed playing with it)
    • Mickey Mouse Monopoly – Chyng Sun, filmmaker is looking for stories about children and play with Barbie, Star Wars, etc
    • Hello Kitty bra and panties set for preschoolers
  • Lessons for Babies
    • Babies learn to self-regulate through repetition and experience versus pushing a button that soothes them externally 
    • Babies learn attachment through experience and repetition
    • Sesame Street is more electronic – toys that do everything and lack the important developmental needs of children – fine motor skills
    • iPotty – a potty with a screen
    • Baby Einstein – makes parents believe that this is what you need to do to make your baby smart > no proof that Baby Einstein really works
    • Buy the right things for children so that they can be smart – “I want it” vs “I can do it”

ISSUES We Are Facing Today

  • Children are asking when given Play-doh, “what does it do?” since they are used to toys playing for them
  • Problem Solving Deficit Disorder – remote-controlled media literacy (She lost me here)
  • Parenting is harder with the accessibility to media
  • Children are bored even when they are surrounded by toys and games because they haven’t developed the ability to problem solve.
  • Going outside is foreign without use of toys or gadgets.
  • How do we help children regain the skills that are learned through free play outside?
  • How are relationships developing? Children learn to treat themselves and others as objects, so more bullying and acting out. They are fine when they are side-by-side with remote controls, but when they have to interact they lack skills to interact and self-regulate. They lack compassion, and it is not their fault. They learn meanness early because they have not learned to connect to another child’s feelings.
  • Age Compression – behaviors expected at certain stages are showing up earlier – sexualization, etc.

What Can We Do To Help Children?

  • Put the blame where it belongs – it is not teachers, parents, and children – children are growing up in a culture where they are overexposed
  • Take into account content and processes children are exposed to – clash of cultures > parent, school, societal AND media, popular, commercial < how do we connect the two by making the first primary as long as we can, and the latter secondary for as long as we can – ask children what they think about what they are exposed to, and LISTEN to their answers without judging, and letting children know you are willing to compromise in healthy ways
  • Stay connected with children – have give and take conversations – ask them what they think – ask open-ended questions – take  your lead from the child – let them come up with their own ideas about what they think
  • Limit exposure to media and commercial culture – don’t just say “no” – use media wisely and appropriately – children will be exposed anyway, even when you limit it – be open about what they see and experience in media 
  • Develop rules and routines about the media and technology in children’s lives – how do you connect the boxes – how do you deal with sneaking – children need our help dealing with this stuff – how do we help children work on experiencing violent situations – schools and parents need to work together about rules and routines for addressing what children are exposed to
  • Work to combat problem-solving deficits – experiences that develop problem-solving skills 
  • Choose toys and media wisely – (Booth 935) – turn off the screens, and turn on the “snow play”, “leaf play”, “music play”, etc.
  • Address content issues – find ways to help children express understanding and make meaning through art, music, conversation, etc. that connects with the children without judgement
  • Help children use play to make meaning and work out worries
  • Counteract lessons about Buy!Buy!Buy! – Connect with children’s passions – this will help them invest in their own learning – time for play, sharing, cooperation, conflict resolution
  • Implement the safety rule – at the heart of discipline is the message that they are safe – “my body, feelings, thoughts, ideas, words, and work is safe”
  • Remote-controlled teaching and learning is not the way to address remote-controlled children – we need media literacy education for teachers of young children (Huff Post – November 11) 



Education Grants

Reading opens up our world!

John Wesley believed in the importance of educating all children, and United Methodists have a history of supporting the rights of all children to a quality education.  If you know of a program or ministry in your congregation and community that is focused on education, consider applying for one or more of these GRANTS!  The deadlines are approaching quickly!


Innovations to Improve Child Literacy Supported

All Children Reading Competition

The All Children Reading Competition, an initiative of USAID, AusAID, and World Vision, seeks to improve reading skills and literacy rates among primary grade children in low-resource settings. Funding will be provided for innovations that focus on the following two areas: access to improved teaching and learning materials, and better education data to support decision-making, transparency, incentives, and accountability. Projects must be carried out in eligible low- and middle-income countries. (A list of eligible countries is available in the Request for Applications.) U.S. and non-U.S. for-profit companies, non-governmental organizations and associations, academic or research institutions, faith-based organizations, civil society, and foundations are eligible to apply for grants of up to $300,000 over a two-year period. Local organizations in the eligible low- and lower-middle income countries are particularly encouraged to apply. Applications are due January 31, 2012. Visit the initiative’s website to download the Request for Applications.

School Improvement Projects Funded

Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant Program

The Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant Program, funded by the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, provides grants ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 to public K-12 schools and parent groups associated with public schools throughout the U.S. for projects to improve schools. Preference is given to requests that have a permanent impact, such as facility enhancements or landscaping/clean up projects. Projects that encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit are favored. For 2011-2012, priority will be given to projects focused on basic needs. The spring 2012 application deadline is February 17. However, if 1,500 applications are received before the application deadline, the application process will close. Visit the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education website to access the online application process.

Funds for Teacher Development and Projects to Enhance Student Achievement

The National Education Association Foundation

The National Education Association (NEA) Foundation makes grants to support educators’ efforts to close the achievement gap, develop creative learning opportunities for students, and enhance their own professional development. Learning & Leadership grants provide opportunities for teachers, education support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff to engage in professional development and lead their colleagues in professional growth. Student Achievement grants provide support to improve the academic achievement of students by engaging in critical thinking and problem solving that deepen knowledge of standards-based subject matter. Applicants for both grants must be practicing U.S. public school teachers in grades pre-K–12, public school education support professionals, or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions. Applications are reviewed three times a year; the upcoming deadline is February 1, 2012. Visit the NEA Foundation’s website to submit an application online.

Fellowships for Teacher Enrichment Activities in Selected States

Fund for Teachers

The Fund for Teachers awards fellowships to pre-K-12 classroom teachers in selected school districts in a number of states and Washington, DC so that they may participate in training and enriching activities that will improve their skills as teachers. Applicants must propose a summer activity and explain how the endeavor will make the applicant a better teacher; how the applicant will implement his or her new improved skills in the classroom; and how these improved skills will benefit students, curricula, and the school. Teachers must have a minimum of three years experience and be full-time teachers spending at least 50% of their time in the classroom. Eligible teachers may apply as individuals (funding limit of $5,000) or as a team (funding limit of $10,000). The application deadline is January 27, 2012. Visit the Fund’s website for detailed fellowship guidelines for each location.

Minigrants for Creative Classroom Projects

Ezra Jack Keats Foundation Minigrant Program

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation’s Minigrant Program provides awards of up to $500 to public schools and public libraries for projects that foster creative expression, working together, and interaction with a diverse community. The grants provide educators with the opportunity to create special activities outside the standard curriculum. Previously funded programs include pen pal projects, murals, quilts, theatre productions, newspaper or other publications, intergenerational activities, and programs that bring disparate communities together. Public schools, public libraries, and preschool Head Start programs in the United States, including Puerto Rico and Guam, are eligible to apply. The application deadline is March 15, annually. Applications may be submitted online through the Foundation’s website.