The 3 Cs of screen time with children: Content, Context and Child

Upon researching on what professionals are discovering on the topic of children and use of technology, I found an interesting TED Talk video called How the iPad affects young children, and what we can do about it: Lisa Guernsey at TEDxMidAtlantic. In this talk, Lisa Guernsey presents her research on what children understand from what they see on the screen and what the adults can do to make it a learning experience and not just something entertaining. Check this out:

Near the end of the talk, Guernsey discusses the 3 Cs that sums up her findings: “We need to focus on the content on the screen. The context: how we’re interacting with children around that media, and making sure that they have good interactions when they’re not with the media. And then the child, our children: we understand our kids, we know what’s going to delight them, we know what kinds of questions they might ask from it, we need to just tune in to see what they understand from it”.

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I think her 3 Cs make an important point and have also been discussed in different forms during the Children and Technology course. My perspective on technology use has completely changed over the recent months because I have learned that screen time can be a positive learning experience, if families and educators make it so. Through lots of group discussions in class, a number of articles and this TED Talk, it’s proven that if families and educators make good use of the technology as a learning tool, not an entertainment device or pacifier, then it can work to be a great learning experience for children. As Guernsey says, “We can learn from the media and apply that outside”. I agree with this point, as I have seen in other videos and articles where the educator uses the media or some form of digital technology as a tool to teach a concept and then it is reenacted in reality or children conduct an experiment afterwards. So the educator is creating this real-life connection and not just leaving the video or app game as-is.

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Guernsey also explains that we can think of the screen like a picture book. When we read a picture book to children we talk about the picture, ask questions to discuss what the children think might happen to the character, what might appear on the next page, and so on so forth. These same sorts of discussion ideas can happen for screen time with the child too. I think that by having these discussions, we can figure out what information children are gaining from what they see on the screen and it’s a teachable moment. For example, in many children’s television programs, the character pauses after asking a question and faces the television viewers as if they’re listening for an answer. During this pause, the adult in the room with the child can turn to the child to ask for their ideas, or brainstorm an idea together. So there’s this piece of active participation, instead of just blankly sitting and staring at the screen.

To sum it up, Guernsey ends with this thought: “I want our kids today to have people around them who are interacting with them, while they are interacting with media, even at their youngest ages”. In our world today, we have to accept the fact that children are surrounded with and will be growing up with different types of devices with screens: TV, smartphones, computer, tablets, Smart Board, and so on. We may try to prevent our child from extended periods of screen time, but this is reality. In school, I’ve seen many kindergarten classes now have a Promethean or Smart Board in their own classroom. I used to have a Smart Board that the whole school shared, but now there’s one for each classroom. So children are being immersed into this digital world from early years. Therefore, to ensure they are using it in a healthy way, educator and families could practice using it as a tool for learning experiences and interact with the child while they are using it. Try to be with them to chat about what they’re playing, relate it to the real world and hear their thoughts about it. Using it as a learning tool could be as simple as watching a how-to video, such as how to bake a cake, and then go out with the child to buy ingredients and try to bake the cake together. It could be a great relationship building moment too. Give it a try and see how much fun it could be!


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