Can Apps Encourage Parents and Kids to Use Media Together?

Whether watching TV, playing games online, or using apps on mom’s iPad, we know that younger children are likely to get more out of a media experience when they play or watch alongside another person. A new survey from Northwestern University finds that family media environment has a big impact on how young children interact with media and on whether they are using media alone, or with someone else.  mediatogether-300x227

“Today’s parents grew up with technology as a central part of their lives, so they think about it differently than earlier generations of parents,” said Ellen Wartella, professor in communication at Northwestern University and one of the study’s lead authors. “Instead of a battle with kids on one side and parents on the other, the use of media and technology has become a family affair.”

The new study asked parents what kinds of activities they enjoy doing together. Included in the list were classic activities, such as doing things outside together (52 percent enjoyed this a lot), reading together (48 percent enjoyed this a lot), and singing songs or making music together (30 percent enjoyed this a lot), as well as media-based activities, such as watching TV or movies together at home (42 percent enjoyed this a lot), using a computer, tablet, or smartphone together (17 percent enjoyed this a lot), and playing video games together (12 percent enjoyed this a lot).

Additionally, more than 60 percent of parents surveyed said they use an iPad, iPod touch, or similar device with the child some or all of the time. Nearly 50 percent reported playing console video games together some or all of the time, while nearly 90 percent reported watching TV together some or all of the time.

The Rogers Center’s Michael Robb says adults should be choosing media experiences for young children that encourage warm, language-rich interaction between children and their caregivers. And the center’s position statement on technology and interactive media in early childhood programs developed with the National Association for Education of Young Children says that interactive media is most valuable when it’s used “intentionally with children to extend and support active, hands-on, creative, and authentic engagement with those around them.”

What does authentic media engagement with another person look like? What can media developers, parents, and educators do to make sure children’s media use is collaborative and enriching as often as possible?

Welcome to our third Quality Conversation post in a series designed to facilitate discussions among parents, educators, researchers, and media creators about what constitutes “quality” in digital media for young children through age 8.williamspurrrrg-300x225

In the first post, we looked at whether all e-books were created equal, and in April we explored how apps can cultivate creativity in young children.  Thank you for your thoughtful replies and for moving forward the conversations about what makes great digital content for children. We’re looking forward to summarizing your feedback this summer.

In this post we want to discuss Williamspurrrrg, a new iPad app by No Crusts Interactive. [Full disclosure Carla is the owner of No Crusts and designer of Williamspurrrg.]. Thank you to Amy Kraft of Media Macaroni for providing the video below. The Fred Rogers Center does not endorse any specific products other than our own (read more on our About Us page). We offer this example for discussion purposes only.

This game was designed to foster cooperation and engagement between kids and their peers and parents, in part to respond to calls made by the Rogers Center in their Framework for Quality in Digital Media for Young Children. But we also acknowledge that co-viewing and interaction around technology means different things to different people.

Here’s how you can participate. Watch the video of Williamspurrrrg below, then rate it on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest quality and 5 being the highest quality.

Most importantly, then tell us why and how much interaction with another person is a factor in your quality rating?  We’d also like to hear how you would use Williamspurrrrg based on your perspective as a parent, educator, researcher, or media maker. And be sure to identify which hat you’re wearing when you comment.

And join the conversation on social media. Please do share this post with your friends and colleagues and encourage them to comment. Thanks for participating!

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