No one I know over 30 years old spends more time looking for toys and media that will unleash kids’ interests and celebrate the fun of learning than Claire Green, the president of Parents’ Choice Foundation and cofounder of Sandbox Summit. In anticipation of a long hot summer, Claire offers her perspective on the digital days ahead.
OMG. The kids are on summer vacation. Let the handwringing begin.
By now, we can practically recite the respected Kaiser Family Foundation study findings of several years ago that kids are spending over 7 ½ hours each day with media. Yes, many kids spend too much time glued to screens. (As do their parents, letter carriers and bus drivers. But that’s another rant for another time.)
As media creators and reviewers, we have the power to offer a counterpoint. We can suggest antidotes to the parade of pixels that plagues parents and trumpets warnings to avoid the summer slide. At risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, we can actually help turn a negative into a positive: use screen-based media as a springboard for summer learning.
Enable parents to enlist their kids in designing a summer vacation media plan. Whether it’s fashion or friendship, watching things explode or flowers bloom, every hour spent with screen-based media will be the catalyst for spending 4 hours learning about the same topic in other ways. (And nice try kids, but sleeping doesn’t count as off-screen hours.)
Encourage parents to make each text a conversation starter about learning a new language or the origin of words. Make every snap of a smart phone camera an opportunity to learn about photojournalism or commercial photography. Choose and tackle a subject, practice, practice, practice, then use Book Creator for iPad to pull it all together. Tell parents how BrainPop excels in answering the many questions they can’t (How do airplanes stay in the sky? How does electricity work?). Extend the fun of learning how and why with a book, science kit, or toy. Use the spectacular Google Art Project as a virtual museum visit, then make plans for a real one. Make every app a reason to learn how to code and make their own with MIT’s Scratch or Microsoft’s Kodu. Can’t get their heads, hearts and hands away from videogames? Have the kids research schools that offer videogame design degrees and let them make their case as to why they want to go. Rolling your eyes yet? Sure this sounds embarrassingly simple and obvious to those of us immersed in digital media and toys, but that’s the point. Talk with parents and let them know that you, a children’s media creator, understand that balancing screen time and real time is important. Be sure parents and educators know you’re on their side. Comport yourselves as digital media ambassadors.
You are smart, fun loving, and creative people. Promote your work as a jumping-off point for summer learning and you just may be able to turn the tide.
I’d love to hear what you’re thinking. Leave a a comment or email Claire@sandboxsummit.org.