Talking About Our Motivations for Using New Media, by Carissa Christner
During a recent group discussion about different ways that families can make a media plan and how we, as librarians and media mentors, can help them with that complicated topic, Tessa M. Schmidt (of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) made an excellent suggestion and it really stuck with me. She pointed out that we need to talk to children about “purpose” (I think of it also as “motivation”) when we are deciding whether or not to use new media at a given time. For instance, if your child approaches you with a request to use the iPad, ask them what their purpose for using it is. Are they seeking a specific piece of information? Is there a particular app they’re excited to use? Are they just bored? There’s not necessarily one right answer (although perhaps if we begin realizing that our motivation is frequently boredom-based or “just out of habit” we might be motivated to open up a discussion about other alternative activities or ways to break the habit), but talking directly about our motivations can help our usage to become more purposeful and mindful rather than just a frequent force of habit.
Parents can also talk about their own motivations for using their devices: “I’m just going to check my e-mail quickly because I’m expecting a message from your grandma,” or “I need to check the weather forecast to see if we need to wear our rain boots today.” Grown-ups can also share their motivations for saying “yes” to their child’s request for the iPad: “I need to have a conversation with your doctor right now and I know you’re tired of being in this exam room. Why don’t you try out that new app we played together last night for a few minutes while we wrap up this visit?” or “Would you like to read a book app for one of our bedtime stories tonight?” or even, “I’m not feeling well right now and I need to lie down for a few minutes. Why don’t you come sit beside me on the bed and we can turn on the narrator so you can listen to one of your book apps?”
Be honest with yourself and with your kids about your motivation. I think this will be a great way to bring a mindful awareness to your own use of devices as well as lay solid groundwork for a healthy media diet as your child grows up.
Carissa Christner is a librarian with Madison Public Library.