Rick Samuelson’s Take on the Big Disconnect

This post is a modified version of an email Rick Samuelson sent to the ALSC listserv in reference to an article in the Huffington Post: 8 Ways Screens Are Ruining Your Family’s Life.

I read The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age shortly after it came out. There is a lot of valuable information in there… but, I have to share a moving story on the subject of screens in early childhood.

We just wrapped up a series of presentations on the subject of screen time in our county. We brought in Lisa Guernsey (author of the book Screen Time: How Electronic Media — From Baby Videos to Educational Software — Affects Your Young Child) to lead a number of public presentations, along with a couple of workshops for folks working in early education.

After one of the public presentations, Lisa was approached by a concerned mother. As it turned out, the mother had been using Skype with her under-2-year-old. The child’s grandparents live in China and it was important to the mother that her child grow up knowing them. However, the mother felt very guilty that her child was being exposed to a screen. Her guilt stemmed from a her understanding of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that all screen media should be avoided for children under the age of 2.

During her presentations, Lisa reviewed the existing research on the issue. In particular, she mentioned a Georgetown study that indicates that young children (although in this case, just over 2) can learn through screen media when the experience involves an active participation by the child.

In general, the research is still very slim on this topic.

I guess the biggest takeaway I got (as a librarian and a parent) is that we can either scare and inflict guilt on parents by blindly swearing by the AAP recommendation or we can help parents make good choices by sharing the best information we can find on a very complex topic. Think of the child with the grandparents in China or all of the military families where parents are stationed overseas. Is it so wrong for a child to see their absent loved-one on a screen? Is it wrong that I showed my 18 month old a YouTube clip of a woodpecker after we had just enjoyed reading Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins together?

This is a very complex and important topic. I hope folks are able to take the time to participate in the Screen Time book group being led by ALSC’s Children & Technology Interest Group.


Posted on March 2, 2014, in Literacy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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