“Tap, Click, Read” co-author Lisa Guernsey on “The Diane Rehm Show”

On Thursday, November 5, Lisa Guernsey, co-author of “Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens,” appeared on the NPR program, The Diane Rehm Show as part of a panel on teens, toddlers and mobile devices. Guernsey discussed how educators and parents can help children develop literacy skills with the use of mobile devices and screen time.

“We tried to look much more closely at how those interactions are changing the way children learn language and learn early literacy skills the precursors of reading and we found that it’s highly variable,” said Guernsey during the panel discussion.

The panel included Rachel Barr, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University, Dr. Michael Rich, founder and director of The Center on Media and Child Health and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. The panelists focused on recent studies that highlight the increasing number of hours children and teens are spending engaged with media on a daily basis, leaving many to question the harmful effects it may have or threat it may pose to development.

Guernsey emphasized that she and co-author Michael Levine found that using mobile devices and screen time could be a complement to children’s interactions in their natural environment when used properly.

“If parents and educators are using media intentionally they will recognize certain sources as a prompt for conversation and real social interaction then it can be harnessed to truly improve language development and literacy, we have to use it intentionally,” said Guernsey.

She highlighted how video capabilities on mobile devices are assisting in child development.

“When we talk about technology and how it affects children is not to get so alarmed that we forget that there are still some social interactions happening through media in new ways, skyping with grandma for example, facetiming with older siblings is happening all the time and those are really authentic interactions,” said Guernsey.

Guernsey warned against “alarmists” who are more focused on the length of time children are in front of screens and not the content and context of what they are consuming. She said screen time could even spark exploration for many children.

“How much time doesn’t get us deeply into the questions of these kinds of social interactions, what children are interested in and curious about, maybe they want to go and explore new things because of what they’ve seen, so that has to be part of the picture as well,” said Guernsey.

Listen to the entire segment from The Diane Rehm Show here.

More research about media use and young children can be found in the following studies:

The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens

Exposure and Use of Mobile Media Devices by Young Children

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