From Early Impressions to a Research Agenda: Children’s Media in my Life

5-year-old Nancy:  “Mommy, can we get a pet?”

Mom:  “What kind of pet would you like?”

5-year-old Nancy:  “An iguana.”

Mom:  “An iguana!  Like you saw on Sesame Street?”

5-year-old Nancy:  “Yes, just like on Sesame Street!”

It was clear from an early age that children’s media was going to have an influence on my life.  Little did I know then that I would be researching, writing, and teaching about it in the years to come.

Back in those days, there were only 3 major broadcast channels.  We had a television with a dial to change the channels and an antenna tower to capture the broadcast signal.  Today, my children have iPads with wifi internet access and digital cable to watch their favorite children’s channels.  Who could have imagined these changes?  While the times have changed, we have similar questions.  How do children understand the screen?  Do they see what others see?  What do they learn from those screens?  Are these screens harmful or helpful?

These questions are asked by parents, teachers, social workers, grandparents, and researchers alike….or as John Wright, one of my mentors, would say, “big people who care about little people.”  I happen to now be one of those people, and I wear many different hats.  I live and breathe children’s media in many, many ways.  I’m a parent.  I’m a sibling.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a researcher.  I’m an advocate, and I’ve been inspired.

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch Lisa Guernsey give a TED Talk.  In this talk, she focuses on the “Three C’s:  Content, Context, and the Child.”  These are all important for understanding the impact of media and technology.  What content is being viewed?  In what context?  By what child?  Guernsey suggests that every family should have access to a “Media Mentor” who can help families manage the media that is all around them.

I’m hopeful that this blog will provide a space for media mentoring to help us answer questions and take on different perspectives about media and technology in the lives of children and their families.  I will be sharing my thoughts, my observations, my research, my knowledge, and my inspirations here.  Please take this journey with me and share your ideas as well.  Together, we can learn about the different ways media is being used and understand how media works in the lives of families.

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