Often in children’s interactive media and technology, educators and parents discuss the ways that these tools are used for creation and consumption. These two categories allow people to recognize that children are both designers and creators who are using media and tech as tools and that children utilize preset content on an app, website, or game. Both of these aspects are not only a part of children’s technology experiences, but they are a part of ours – the caring adults in children’s lives. It can be tricky for us to feel competent and confident about making the best choices when it comes to balancing these uses. When we shift the conversation to children from diverse communities and with different abilities, does this balance change? Does one become more important than the other?
Recently, I spoke with faculty from New Mexico State University about this issue. I shared with them my perspective on #weneeddiverseapps as well as my thoughts about technology being tools for children’s creation. One of the faculty stressed the importance of using technology with young children as a creation tool without as much emphasis on diversity in children’s interactive media content. After this question, I left wondering: “What is most essential, advocating for programs that make children content creators or ones that promote diversity in children’s technology and interactive media?”
If we want children from diverse communities to be able to feel expand their understanding and knowledge of digital literacy and media literacy, then allowing children to create content on different platforms is imperative. This also gives children the ability to share their story and create content that is authentic and meaningful to them. However, we can’t deny that media and technology is also consumed by us and children. Being able to read ebooks and play with apps that reflect children’s cultural communities would be empowering and enhance their sense of value, especially when there may be subtle messages that are disempowering to diverse communities.
Gradually, I am coming to the conclusion that both are necessary because together they both recognize the many forms that technology and media play in our lives and the balance that we are strategizing every day. Increasing cultural relevancy in children’s technology and media and promoting creation tools seem to create a balanced approach to examining the role of technology and media in the lives of children from diverse communities and backgrounds.
As I’m contemplating this question, I would like to hear your feedback on this issue. What do you think educators and parents should emphasize: creative uses or more diversity in consumable content? Is one more essential than the other or should be balanced? We’re all still figuring it out and hopefully we can have more constructive conversations that lead to appropriate and effective solutions.