In early May people nationwide will be celebrating Screen-Free Week for a chance to unplug and smell the roses. For the past two years our tech-savvy children’s librarians have participated and it has actually sparked valuable dialogue with parents and caregivers about actively participating in their child’s screen-time activities. Last year we removed the iPads in the library and asked the community to pledge what they would do with the additional time as a result of the screen fast. Comments ranged from riding a bike, to playing more basketball, and of course our favorite response from a mystery patron – find a job asap. The librarians offered resources and articles to parents on monitoring screentime, while also sharing some of our favorite apps which include award-winners and professional recommendations.
The question is can we still advocate for the appropriate use of tech with kids, while also valuing a little unplugging of media from time to time?
I’ve always believed that something designed for good has the potential to be misused. Just as children’s librarians explain to parents and caregivers in storytime the importance of modeling certain behaviors to encourage literacy development, the same goes for media usage.
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center recently published Family Time with Apps: A Guide to Using Apps with your Kids, which provides suggestions on how using apps together can support a child’s learning and development. When we featured the new Sight Word Adventure app on one of the mounted iPad stations in the Children’s Library, one parent immediately commented on the quality and effectiveness of the learning tool. She wanted additional information and suggestions for her child who was learning to read. This type of interaction can easily lead to a lengthy conversation on monitoring media use and making screen-time a family activity.
Thinking about the weighty topic of screen-time, I was deeply encouraged last week when I went to hear one of my role models as a child, Dr. Jane Goodall speak in Brooklyn. Her talk was entitled, Sowing the Seeds of Hope, and when asked what gave her hope in today’s world I was surprised that she brought technology into the equation. Dr. Goodall mentioned the ability of the young Roots & Shoots members to make global connections because of technology, as well as the rapid awareness brought to environmental causes via social media outlets.
So this year during Screen-Free Week, we plan to ask kids to think about how they can use the technology we have to help make the world a better place.
Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Digital Media Resources page to find out more about navigating your way through the evolving digital landscape.