Children’s Media and Tech Content Representation

In my professional and personal life, I have become increasingly aware of the diverse types of technologies available for children’s use, such as smart phones, tablets, iPods, or computers.  According the Common Sense Media 2013 Zero to Eight report, young children spend an average of 57 minutes watching television, 22 minutes watching DVDs, 11 minutes on the computer, and 15 minutes with mobile devices.  Another interesting point from this report reveals that mobile devices are used for watching videos and movies as well as playing games and apps.  With a combination of media consumption and interaction, as professionals and parents are reminded to consider the media that we put on these devices or choose to watch.  More specifically, we should examine if this content represents and includes multiple cultural groups or if there are groups commonly left absent.

One researcher who draws attention to this subject is Kevin Clark from George Mason University.  Dr. Clark addresses the issue of diversity in children’s content in a past Fred Rogers Center blog post, Diversity in Children’s Media Is More Than Just Race and Gender.  In the post, he informs us that diversity is more than how someone looks, it is “the situations that characters are in, what they say, and how they communicate, as well as what they do and what is done to them.” After reading and reflecting on this post, we can form many questions like: what type of content are we presenting to children in the childcare center, at home, at the library, or another location? how do we ensure that the media is reflective of their experiences? how do we know which media is the appropriate way to expose children to new content?

One way to address some of these questions is by dialoguing with people who create media to discover ways people can represent multiple cultures in their medium.  While attending the Fred Forward Conference this month, I had a pleasure of meeting Tatenda Mbudzi.  He, like Dr. Clark, shares an passion and interest around the issue of diversity and cultural representation in children’s media content.  In order to address this matter, Mr. Mbudzi received a Fred Rogers Center fellowship and will be creating a children’s show set in Zimbabwe called Ngano Kids to provide more cultural representation in children’s content.  My conversation with Mr. Mbuduzi helped me realize that there are media creators who want to reflect other perspectives and that there are opportunities to have conversations with media designers of films, video games, apps, or TV shows for children.  As professionals and parents, we need to find ways to connect with media designers and researchers and have meaningful conversations about why multiple representations are important for young children.

In addition to forming these connections, we can be more conscious and intentional about the media we choose.  This means that we have to get to know the children, learn their perspectives, and understand their various communities.  This knowledge will help us choose content that represents diverse groups, situations, and stories so we can make sure it is meaningful to them.  By being intentional about choosing the best media, we can put Dr. Clark’s advice in action and become sensitive and aware of what we are choosing and help children develop a quality media diet.

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