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February 04, 2013 | posted in: Fred Rogers Center News | comment

posted by: Rita Catalano

Fred Rogers had a unique understanding of young children’s sensitivities and needs as well as the challenges families and educators face.  He knew that caring adults make the difference in a child’s life.  He set the highest possible standards for his work—standards grounded in research on how children grow and develop, his own years of observing and learning from young children, and the strong universal values he embodied.  Throughout his career, he understood the power of technology and media, and he had the creative insight to fully develop its potential for nurturing and teaching. 

The Fred Rogers Center is committed to building on this important legacy in today’s world of rapidly advancing technology and digital media. Across income levels and backgrounds, most American families with young children are “plugged in” to multiple types of digital devices and media-based content each day. 

Children are born ready to grow, ready to be valued; children are born ready to learn.  What will it take for our whole society to insist on the best for children? - Fred Rogers, 1994

In this blog, we will expand the dialogue, report on new thinking and research, and showcase innovative practice in designing and using these new tools to support learning and development for children birth through age 8.  

And there is much territory to explore, given the growing interest—and concerns—of parents and educators in how to deal appropriately with the rapid innovation and aggressive marketing of digital media in many forms, including multi-touch tablets, e-books, smartphones, mobile apps, motion control games, and “transmedia” suites of digital content linking television programming with  games and other types of online content.   

We will keep tabs on this rapidly evolving digital media environment with weekly blog posts by researchers, educators, media makers, and others. Rogers Center Senior Fellow David Kleeman, President of the American Center for Children and Media, will be a regular contributor. Senior Fellow Alice Wilder, co-creator of Blue’s Clues and an award-winning developer of children’s media, will work with media researcher and designer Carla Fisher on a series of “Quality Conversations” featuring a panel of commenters on particular media products.   Twice a month, our blog editors Sarah Jackson and Barbara Ray will summarize new developments in the field.

To start us off: This week read Daniel Anderson’s piece on how to help young children develop a healthy media diet; advice for parents from Ellen Wartella on what we know from the research about media potential for learning in the early years; and a thoughtful report from Michael Levine and Lisa Guernsey on their work with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

Blog topics will vary widely but all will relate in some way to the principles and recommended actions of the Framework for Quality in Digital Media for Young Children: Considerations for Parents, Educators, and Media Creators (PDF), developed by the Fred Rogers Center.

Just as Fred Rogers mined the potential of television, the Rogers Center has focused in recent years on exploring the potential of new and emerging media.  In 2012, we completed two documents intended to provide guidance and encourage innovation: a national position statement on technology and interactive media in early childhood programs, and the Framework for Quality.  Our position statement in partnership with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) concludes that technology and interactive media can be effective tools for learning in early childhood programs when these tools are used intentionally and in accordance with what is appropriate for each child’s age, stage of development, and personal interests and needs.  The positive response to the NAEYC-Fred Rogers Center position statement led us to consider how to extend guidance on quality in the design and use of digital media to support parents and media makers as well as early childhood educators.

In 2012, the Rogers Center developed the Framework for Quality in collaboration with the Center on Media and Human Development at Northwestern University, the TEC Center at Erikson Institute, the American Center on Children and Media, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.  The Framework identifies three principles of quality.

  1. Quality digital media should safeguard the health, well-being, and overall development of young children.
  2. Quality in digital media for young children should take into account the child, the content, and the context of use.
  3. Determinations of quality should be grounded in an evidence base that can be used by parents, educators, policymakers, and others to make decisions about the selection and use of particular digital media products, and by media creators to improve and develop new products in response to consumer expectations of quality.

Developing the position statement and the Framework involved research reviews combined with many online forums, conferences, and other meetings as occasions for input from thousands of early childhood educators, parents, media creators, researchers, policymakers, and advocates. The Rogers Center’s national Fred Forward Conference in June 2012 engaged 160 national and regional leaders in deeper discussion of quality and recommended next steps. Video from the Fred Forward conference is available on our website.

These blog posts will bring together the voices of media developers, educators, parents, and researchers. We look forward to hearing from you.  Please sign up to get updates via RSS or email,  follow us on Twitter, share the blog through your social media networks, and be a regular visitor and commenter.  We also welcome your thoughts via email to me at rogers.center@email.stvincent.edu. Finally, I hope that you will take a few minutes to comment below on topics that you would like to see included in our blog’s discussions of “quality” in digital media for young children.

Rita Catalano's avatar

Rita Catalano

Rita Catalano is executive director of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College. She led the partnership to develop the Framework for Quality in Digital Media for Young Children.

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