Advocacy Toolbox: Screen Time and Media Mentorship

In this month’s installment of Advocacy Toolbox, I’d like to focus on a couple of hot topics: Advocacy Toolbox with watermark (1)screen time and media mentorship. I don’t know about you, but when people find out I’m a children’s librarian, they will involuntarily apologize for letting their child watch/play a game on their [phone/tv/ipad/other device]. I will kindly explain that I’m not the media police, and that they are probably ALSO reading their kid bedtime stories and talking to them, so no need to feel bad.


We are surrounded by technology, and libraries have an important role to play in helping parents understand the mixed messages they get around screen time. Is it never okay? If I accidentally slip on the rug and in an effort to stop my fall my hand happens to turn on the tv and my child sees 6 seconds of PBS, is he scarred for life? Am I never to have a moment’s peace if I can’t let my child play a game on my phone while I’m out to eat with friends? We can help provide answers and reassurance.


Personally, I advocate for “thoughtful” screen time. If you’re going to let your child engage with a screen, it’s best if a caring adult is there participating and engaging along with the child. Because children really learn best from face-to-face interaction. But the reality is that parents sometime just need to get dinner cooked, or a short break, and a screen can provide a needed diversion. As long as a screen doesn’t become the default mode of learning, and it’s used sparingly and thoughtfully, it’s unlikely any harm will come to the child. Oh, and before age 2? As little as possible.


Here are some excellent resources to add to your toolbox around the subject of screen time and media mentorship:


What the heck IS media mentorship, for pete’s sake? Here’s everything you ever wanted to know – and it’s all useful and amazing.  Basically, we, librarians, are mentoring the families who use our libraries when it comes to using media. We can provide information, reassurance, and recommendations. Someone in a webinar (maybe it was Cen Campbell?) reminded me that we do reader’s advisory, so why not app advisory, and I thought that was genius. Our parents look to us for recommendations for all the media they consume – and apps are one part – so why not help guide them to the best?


If you want to read more about screen time, check out Lisa Guernsey’s books. There’s a video of a presentation she gave on the ALSC Media Mentorship link above, also. I had the good fortune of hearing her speak a couple of years ago and she really helped shape the way I talk about screen time now.


Here’s the official scoop from the American Academy of Pediatrics. I don’t think they actually ever really said NO SCREEN TIME BEFORE AGE 2 PERIOD END OF STORY as has been widely reported but they do say:  “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”


ETA: They’ve just released this awesome “News Release” called “Beyond ‘turn it off’: How to advise families on media use.” Lots of valuable talking points here.


The Fred Rogers Center (remember our buddy Fred?) has a whole initiative around digital media and learning.  Also here are the “Key Messages of the NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs.”


Need some apps to recommend and don’t have time to try them all out yourself? Here are some places to start:


Want to learn how to best evaluate an app yourself? Scroll down this page from Little elit and they’ve got a great series of blog posts to guide you.


What resources have you added to your toolbox related to media mentorship and screen time? Please share!



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