CML's Position Statement to NAEYC

In reviewing the revised position statement on Technology and Young Children – Ages 3 through 8, we were appreciative of the advances in thinking on the role of technology in the education of young children, but also disappointed that the importance of teaching critical thinking/media literacy skills was not emphasized or represented.
Certainly, considerations on the selection of software and hardware as well as professional development in integrating such technology into instruction are highly important; however, it is not enough to teach children to push the right technology buttons with age-appropriate content! It is vitally important that they learn to filter the messages that they receive so that they learn to make wise choices and gain the lifelong learning skills that they need going forward in using technology and information.
Through the inquiry process learned in media literacy education (based on the Core Concepts of media literacy developed internationally), children develop a quick methodology for critically analyzing ANY media message they come across, and by practicing this methodology over time, they acquire a common vocabulary and internalized process for discernment (We explain this process in the attached paper, Globalocal, presented at the International Research Forum on Media Literacy in London/2008). There is no technology filtering or parental control system that can substitute for children’s having these skills, because children are literally swimming in technology/media throughout the day, often alone and without the benefit of adult guidance.
Given the intense use of media by young children, effects are inevitable. For example, with the food and beverage industries spending more than $10 billion per year to market to children in the U.S., one of the goals of marketing is branding to encourage children to recognize and differentiate particular products and logos. By 2 years of age, children may have beliefs about specific brands, and 2 to 6 year olds can recognize familiar brand names, packaging, logos, and characters and associate them with products, especially if the brands use salient features such as bright colors, pictures and cartoon characters.
Research has shown that even a single exposure to a television advertisement affected preschool children’s brand preferences; furthermore, preschool children’s taste preferences are influenced by branding from a heavily marketed source (Robinson, Borzekowski, Matheson & Kraemer, 2007).*
With the stakes so high, from both industry and consumer standpoints, education is the best hope for preparing children to understand their relationship with media and to empower them to make wise choices regarding the technology and media they use. Literally, their media diet affects children’s food diet!
Our work at the Center for Media Literacy has involved professional development, parent education and direct student engagement for students PK-12. We have seen that very young students can gain critical autonomy while in early stages of development, and we have developed a question set for young children (explained in the attachment, 5KQYoungChildren). This question set breaks down the Five Core Concepts of Media Literacy so that they are more accessible to young children; through practice and over time, they gain an understanding of how media work and how they are using these concepts as they create media and collaborate on media productions. As their understanding strengthens, they are able to apply the concepts and questions to many contexts, while having a consistent and credible process for analysis. Among the key findings our research has revealed, is that students of trained teachers mitigate their media use and have reduced aggression.
With all of this in mind, we believe that there is a “layer” missing in your position statement. This layer would address preparing teachers to not only integrate technology into their curriculum, but to prepare them to teach children the critical thinking skills/media literacy that go along with the collaboration, learning, and play that is inherent in media deconstruction and construction. Parents also benefit from such knowledge in their quest to prepare children for today’s world, in which being efficient managers, wise consumers, and responsible producers is essential for success. Just as notable, teaching through Five Key Questions is a manageable approach and entry path to a very large subject: digital media literacy.
Not only must educators match the technology to each child’s unique special needs, learning styles and individual preferences, but they must also prepare each child to think independently about the technology and the messages they encounter. It is only in this context that children will be prepared to be in charge of their lifelong relationship with media and learning through technology, so that we as humans are in charge of the technology – and not the reverse.
The Center for Media Literacy is pleased to open this dialogue with NAEYC and is available to collaborate with NAEYC in supporting this framework for teachers of young children throughout the country.
CML’s comprehensive website, is currently being relaunched (in mid-August); it contains more  than 1,000 pages of content, a research-based framework and resources for media literacy education.
Respectfully submitted,
Tessa Jolls
President and CEO
*”Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children’s Taste Preferences,” by Thomas N. Robinson, Dina L.G. Borzekoski, Donna M. Matheson, and Helena C. Kraemer, Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, Volume 161 (No. 8), Aug. 2007.