"This instrument [TV] can teach, it can illuminate, yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends," he said. "Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box." ~ Edward R. Murrow
Some marvelous learnings from the Kidscreen Summit. I just finished a morning session entitled “D is for Digital”, put together by the fine folks at Sesame Street Workshop. The panel featured representation from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Sesame Street Workshop, Commonsense Media (a parent advocacy group centered around media), PBS Kids, and Media Kidz (a research organization).
Some cool and interesting properties that are worth viewing:
Panwapa.com – an on-line community for kids tat features characters who live on an island that floats around. Kids can navigate between five different languages on the fly, can create an avatar in a number of global settings, and encourages acceptance and exploration of different cultures around the world. One of those things that will make you say “I wish I had that when I was a kid.”
Okami – a Japanese video game property that interests boys and girls of a variety of ages.
Word Girl – my boss and I read about this property during the mid-summer when the New York Times ran an article on it. Word Girl is one of the newer properties for PBS, and on the web platform, kids can submit their favorite words as well as play a variety of games to build vocabulary.
Sesame Street Video Player – currently in Beta at videos.sesameworkshop.org – parents and kids can find Sesame Street video clips tagged with character names, text, and, best of all, education concepts such as “sharing” or “friendship”.
And some facts:
The average age of on-set for digital media use is 6.5 years old, down from 8 years of age just two years ago.
96% of tweens and teens use some sort of social networking
71% of parents have had some on-line issues arising with their children
81% of parents say that the internet has helped their child’s learning
The difficulty of “rating up” – a Bain sudy has found increasingly that what used to be considered PG-13 or even R-rated material, now largely is rated as PG or even G content.
Kids are their own programmers – they choose when, where, and what to watch
Kids spend 45 hours per week interacting with media, 30 hours per week in school, and 17 hours per week with their parents.
Proliferation of virtual worlds
Video content and user-generated content on the web
On-line curriculum building separate from educators – PBS is exploring ways to build series of games to lead kids, particularly pre-schoolers, along a path in skills such as literacy by batching and sequencing the games.
The big opportunities:
Focus on literacy
Creative problem sovling
Other skills that kids will need a global economy
Few video games of educational promise really exist today. This is an area of tremendous opportunity for developers and producers of video games.
The bridge between research, industry, and the nonprofit world – the most exciting possibility for me since I have experience and passion in all three areas.
The use of media devices such as cell phones to distribute batches of content in snippets – playing into the trend of our “snack culture”. PBS has done some work around literacy for pre-schoolers in which everyday their parents received a text message from Elmo encouraging them to look for things like foods in the grocery store that begin with the “letter of the day.” After the study, kids who participated were fond to know their alphabet song better and have an increased awareness of the learning opportunities that are all around them.
In conclusion, Sholly Fisch of Media Kidz, made an excellent point that is the underlying driver for the expanded research currently being done on kids and media: kids today are faced with constant change and the increasing need for comfort with ambiguity, though kids are still kids. They still need to be encouraged, loved and cared for. The challenge and opportunity for all of us in the youth space lies in how can we use media as a tool to deliver a rich p-to-date experience to kids that nurtures them in this world of uncertainty and change.