Children, Adolescents, and the Media AAP Position Statement

The American Academy of Pediatrics has just released a new policy statement entitled Children, Adolescents, and the Media. We at LittleeLit focus on the implications of interactive media use with children aged 0-6 in early literacy programming, and the new AAP statement spans all of childhood and adolescence, with a particular emphasis on media use by older children and teenagers.  We at LittleeLit also spend a lot of time pointing out that the oft-quoted  2011 AAP position statement on Media Use by Children Younger than 2 Years is frequently misquoted, doesn’t take into account the changing nature of interactive and digital media, and does not provide realistic pedagogical guidance to professionals who work with children in an increasingly digital landscape. The new one is better, but it’s not a tool for librarians, and shouldn’t be used as such. I say that, but I have already seen librarians referencing it as something to guide the development of programming and services. It’s not.

The reason it’s not a terribly useful document (either of them, actually) for children’s librarians is because it employs a medical, alarmist frame that is more a reaction to socioeconomic imbalances and parenting issues in our conservative North American society rather than technological devices being used by children. It’s also prescriptive (because doctors prescribe things) and doesn’t take into changing information needs that public libraries are dedicated to fulfilling, without judgement, in whatever format our patrons need. For some balance after reading the new position statement, please read Faith Rogow’s recent blog post on the Fred Rogers Center’s blog entitled Why Counting Screen Time Minutes Isn’t an Education Strategy.

Here’s the lowdown from the latest from the AAP:

  • Some progress is apparent in the new statement especially around the “positive, prosocial uses of media and the need for media education in schools and at home.” [And in libraries, dear pediatricians! We’re a force to be reckoned with!  We’re mobilizing to serve as media mentors in this capacity!]
  • Pediatricians are instructed to ask 2 questions of their patients.
    • How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?
    • Is there a TV set or an internet connected device in the child’s or teenager’s bedroom?
  • These are diagnostic risk-assessment questions, similar to the “do you ever feel like you’re going to be walloped by your partner?” questions you get when you go for a check up, and don’t have anything to do with developing a child’s critical literacy skills in a screen-infested environment. These are SAFE, medically-couched questions that a doctor can ask parents that don’t make any assertions about parent involvement (or lack thereof), socioeconomic status, race, family status, education, and other “risk factors” that our politically correct, litigious society gets itself all tied up in knots about.
  • Applause for the suggestion to look at media history for kids who may not be doing well in other areas of their life; that’s looking at the individual child and not plastering the same time-or-format-based rules on everyone.
  • What I REALLY like about the guidelines is the “Physician, heal thyself” suggestion suggesting that doctors take a look at their OWN media consumption. This is another point I try to emphasize; we as a SOCIETY have no idea how to moderate our media usage. These new ways of expressing ourselves are totally rocking our noggins and we are forever changed as a species. These kids need all of us (doctors, teachers, librarians, parents, nannies, uncles, aunts, cousins etc) to straighten out our own generational and vocational hangups and compulsions about living mobile so we can model how they can do it and still be healthy, useful citizens.
  • The recommendations for pediatricians are pretty much the same as previous statements. It’s old wine in a new bottle. Time-based limits on screen time is not an educational strategy and is downright silly in the age of kindergarteners being standardly tested on iPads. I wish the same folks who get their panties in a twist about technology use with young kids would make such a big stink about rampant standardized testing. Talk about damaging our children’s brains. Our societal priorities are so messed up.
  • Co-viewing and modeling are given as suggestions for pediatricians to bestow upon the unwashed masses, though they are mentioned LAST, behind limiting time, discouraging use, monitoring & keeping TVs out of bedrooms. Y’all have it backwards.  Those should come first.
  • Pediatricians are encouraged to “educate” schools and other neighborhood forums. Yeah, ok. On that note, LittleeLit is developing an open letter to pediatricians that calls for a more realistic, less “Danger Will Robinson!” approach to this kind of collaboration, from people who actually evaluate and use new media with young kids, scour the field for research and develop realistic guidelines and best practices in this area. Many thanks to almost-Dr. Tess Prendergast for writing the first draft, and for LittleeLit contributors for further developing it. The open letter will post soon.
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Posted on November 3, 2013, in Literacy. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Maybe this is just my community, but I’m unaware of any pediatricians who do community outreach to schools or other community forums. I know some librarians who do, though.

  2. Cen, Thank you! Printing and posting for staff to read.

  3. Very provocative–I love it! It is a little ridiculous that AAP still ignores interactive media except for referencing its existence. However, I also liked their reference to “pro-social” media (clearly a reference to Sesame Street & Mr. Rogers). Now, if only they could extend that acceptance to the power of apps.

  1. Pingback: Give Us Some Mo! Children’s Programming in a 21st Century Library | The CATS Division Blog

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