Ruth's Reflections

Musings with a Manitoba ECE

Toward a Drama Pedagogy for Infants

While this inquiry has been brief (and can in no way be considered exhaustive), I did learn a lot about Theatre for the Very Young, and how I might use it as a basis for developing a drama pedagogy for infants.

Kapstein and Goldstein (2019), and Drury and Fletcher-Watson (2017) discuss the importance of an understanding of child development and developmental psychology when designing theatre experiences for infants and toddlers. This would also be key in designing pedagogy for infants and Toddlers. Mindfulness of the multisensory opportunities with dramatic experiences, as Drury and Fletcher-Watson point out, I expect will have a particularly engaging effect.

Hovik (2019), drawing from several conceptual frameworks, suggests that interactivity, participation and affective attunement, as well as musical communication are effective elements of TVY. These features are easily transferable to classroom encounters and would suit my emerging drama pedagogy.

Quinones, Ridgeway, and Li (2019) advise that the qualities of the space be taken into account when designing a drama pedagogy for toddlers, as well as interacting in a ‘dramatic’ way and infusing the interactions with wonder and inquiry. They also point out that these encounters can be any old moment in childcare, or at least that was my take-away.

So, to sum up, the research informed pedagogical approach to drama education that one might take with infants would look like this:

  • Informed by an understanding of both drama elements and child development (see Kapstein & Goldstein, 2019, Table 1 for a handy chart)
  • Involves multisensory elements to engage children and in recognition of their ways of learning about the world (Drury & Fletcher-Watson, 2017)
  • Is interactive and participatory, recognizing that infants may all participate in different ways, if at all (Fletcher-Watson, 2015; Hovik, 2019)
  • Can happen in ordinary moments, and does not necessarily need to be pre-planed and an extravagant affair (Quinones et al., 2019)

A note about participation: While infant participation, to varying degrees, is an integral element of TVY, drama pedagogy in general, and infant pedagogy, Fletcher-Watson (2015) reminds us to be mindful of power dynamics. He warns that sometimes participatory elements are tokenistic and manipulative rather than genuinely participatory.

Now, here’s a lovely performance of Theatre for the Very Young to wrap up this inquiry. Can you pick out elements that would fit into a drama pedagogy for infants? Which elements may be better suited to remaining in theatrical productions?


Drury, R. C., & Fletcher-Watson, B. (2017). The infant audience: The impact and implications of child development research on performing arts practice for the very young. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 15(3), 292–304.

Fletcher-Watson, B. (2015). Seen and not heard: Participation as tyranny in Theatre for Early Years. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 20(1), 24–38.

Hovik, L. (2019). Becoming small: Concepts and methods of interdisciplinary practice in theatre for early years. Youth Theatre Journal, 33(1), 37–51.

Kapstein, A., & Goldstein, T. R. (2019). Developing wonder: Teaching theatre for the very young through collaboration with developmental psychology. Youth Theatre Journal, 33(1), 52–69.

Quinones, G., Ridgway, A., & Li, L. (2019). Developing a drama pedagogy for toddler education. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 17(2), 140–156.

Scottish Opera: SensoryO – 2012. (2019, December 22).

Drama in the Little Moments

“In developing a drama pedagogy, the educator needs to be aware of creating an inquiry stance for dramatic interaction with toddlers to co-construct the narrative.” (Quinones et al., 2019, p. 15)

Photo by Valentina Pescape on Unsplash

In Developing a Drama Pedagogy for Toddler Education, Quinones, Ridgeway, and Li (2019) posited, with evidence from a case study, three qualities for a drama pedagogy with toddlers:

  1. A space that has dramatic qualities
  2. Dramatic interactions (i.e. educators and toddlers use of expressions, educator’s voice intonation)
  3. Conversational narratives through dialogue commentary, which “includes dialogic explanations that promote questioning and invite co-construction of dramatic action” (Quinones et al., 2019, p. 14)

These elements, they say, foster an inquiry stance in toddlers.


In the case study used to illustrate their conclusions, the authors described what to me, looked like a very ordinary moment in everyday early learning and care with very young children – the educator and three children went to look at the pet rabbits and had a conversation. Quinones, Ridgeway, and Li broke down this interaction and illustrated how each of their three qualities of drama pedagogy was present in this moment. The space where the rabbits are kept is a shared lobby of sorts in the childcare centre and with its interesting features (pets) and lighting, the authors asserted these as dramatic qualities. The invitational language, body language and expressions of the educator, and the engagement and response of the children were evidence of dramatic interactions. The dialogue commentary was evidenced by the educator’s inquiring attitude that encouraged the children to build on the narrative (Quinones et al., 2019)


While the authors focused on drama with toddlers (no age specified) instead of infants, I feel that their methodology is more closely aligned with infant practice than the vast body of literature on school-aged drama education. Further, it describes hundreds of interactions that already occur in infant and toddler centres. Fait accompli! Well, maybe not. Tune in tomorrow to see how it all ties together.


Quinones, G., Ridgway, A., & Li, L. (2019). Developing a drama pedagogy for toddler education. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 17(2), 140–156.

Participation and Power in Theatre for Infants

“As a route away from the often unconscious tyrannies which may accompany adult-led arts projects, it is proposed that participatory power structures can be created which grant agency to child audiences to engage on their own terms. This includes the ability to take control of the theatrical event, to withdraw from participation and to have children’s innate imaginative capabilities recognised as comparable to those of adults.”  (Fletcher-Watson, 2015, p. 24)

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

This quote from Ben Fletcher-Watson’s provocative article, Seen and Not Heard: Participation as Tyranny in Theatre for Early Years (2015), really resonated with me. My primary research interest is examining infants’ experiences of power relations, often between themselves and adults. Fletcher -Watson acknowledges the hegemonic power structures present in children’s theatre when adults don’t explicitly address them. He asserts that “when children’s experiences are curated and determined by adults, participation may resemble manipulation rather than control” (Fletcher-Watson, 2015, p. 24) and that some “may feel unsettled by a tokenistic experience which appears to legitimise the artist’s hegemonic status” (Fletcher-Watson, 2015, p. 24).


The author describes adult-curated participatory experiences as reinforcing adult power, rather than empowering children. When the adult chooses the moment to pass an object around the audience, or when to invite the children into the stage area, the adult still has all the power (Fletcher-Watson, 2015). He also asserts that agency is the counterpoint to this tyranny, and proposes a modified version of Arnstein’s (1969) Ladder of Participation tailored for infant audiences of TEY. Intuitively, at the bottom of the list are the lowest forms of participation.

  • Child-led practices:
    • Playing
    • Reinterpreting
    • Co-creating
  • Adult-led practices:
    • Interacting
    • Testing
    • Educating
  • Non-participation:
    • Therapizing
    • Spectating (Fletcher-Watson, 2015, p. 29)

Fortunately for my purposes, the thrust of my inquiry is toward child-led, participatory experiences. My aim is not to produce theatrical performances for infants, but to have the body of TVY/TEY research inform my co-creation of dramatic experiences with infants.



Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A Ladder Of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35(4), 216–224.

Fletcher-Watson, B. (2015). Seen and not heard: Participation as tyranny in Theatre for Early Years. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 20(1), 24–38.

Why an Understanding of Developmental Psychology may still be useful in TVY

While Lise Hovik, whom we discussed yesterday, looked outside of developmental psychology for her conceptual framework, Adrienne Kapstein and Thalia Goldstein solidly based their methodology on bringing both theatre studies and developmental psychology together.  Kapstein, a theatre professor, and Goldstein, a developmental psychology professor, created an interdisciplinary university course called Developing Wonder: Psychology, Theatre, and Children for theatre students at Pace University in New York. They designed this course to both look at TEY/TVY through a developmental lens, and look at developmental psychological research through a theatrical lens (Kapstein & Goldstein, 2019). They examined the various elements present in TEY/TVY productions and paired them with relevant psychology topics. Here are a few examples:

  • Use of multi-sensory elements in storytelling and design – Basic developmental processes in perception, including the structure of habituation and dishabituation to perceptual elements. (Kapstein & Goldstein, 2019, p. 59)
  • Performance experiences that invite engagement and social interaction in multiple directions – Basic development of social interaction and social communication, joint attention. Theories and types of parenting. (Kapstein & Goldstein, 2019, p. 59)

“Most typically developing children do not need to be taught to pay attention to social cues or to turn their heads and move towards things they are interested in. While TVY might capitalize on the ways in which children pay attention to new  stimuli, it is not necessarily teaching children to pay attention to new stimuli, nor should that be a goal of the work” – Kapstein & Goldstein, 2019, p. 56

I think this is relevant because ECEs are more likely to have a background in child development than they are in performing arts. While the aim of early childhood education is not necessarily to teach infants and make them develop  (they’ll do that on their own, thank-you very much), the role of early childhood educators is to provide a nurturing environment and stimulating experiences tailored so that each infant has the opportunity to develop at their own pace. Having a list of elements of TEY/TVY paired with developmental concepts would be a great addition to an ECEs toolbox so that s/he can utilize some of the components in designing environments and programming relevant to each specific group of children.



Kapstein, A., & Goldstein, T. R. (2019). Developing wonder: Teaching theatre for the very young through collaboration with developmental psychology. Youth Theatre Journal, 33(1), 52–69.

Beyond a Developmental Conceptual Framework

Lise Hovik is an important figure in TEY research and, in Becoming Small: Concepts and Methods of Interdisciplinary Practice in Theatre for Early Years (2019), she examined the conceptual underpinnings of her practice as a theatre company artistic director as she created several productions for children aged zero to three. Here is a brief example of a performance of De Røde Skoene, or The Red Shoes. This was one of the productions she created during her PhD work in TEY.

(Hovik, 2017)

In Becoming Small, Hovik (2019) looked to other disciplines to inform her conceptual framework of TEY. The concepts she felt were most relevant are:

  • Presence in play
  • Musical Communication
  • Interactivity and affective attunement
  • Participation
  • Interaction

Hovik specifically looked outside of developmental and psychological lenses to create an alternative view of how TEY can benefit very young children. By drawing from other disciplines, she was able to look at TEY from a broader perspective, and indeed, after producing De Røde Skoene, she created two other productions within the overall Red Shoes Project.

“Early experiences of art, based on direct and sensorial encounters, will in this perspective be just as valuable as later experiences. Children might be even more receptive, and art for young children more valuable, because of their innocent and enquiring minds”. – Hovik, 2019, p. 49

The second production was an interactive, playful art/museum installation with artists improvisationally interacting with the children (aged 0-3), called Red Shoe Missing. The third production, as Hovik’s thinking and conceptual framework evolved, was Mum’s Dancing which she described as “dynamic dramaturgical structure moving between choreographic dance segments and free improvisational segments in which the children could play with red shoes and other installation objects” (Hovik, 2019, p. 43).

The way Hovik’s thinking evolved to include concepts drawn from other disciplines, and the evolution of her practice to include a broader definition of TEY has practice implications for Early Childhood Educators. By integrating elements of improvisation, dance, free play, music and movement, children as young as infants can engage in participatory drama experiences. While Hovik describes theatrical performance, some of these less performative elements can be incorporated in to ECE environments.



Hovik, L. (2017, January 28). De Røde Skoene—Teater for de aller minste (The Red Shoes).

Hovik, L. (2019). Becoming small: Concepts and methods of interdisciplinary practice in theatre for early years. Youth Theatre Journal, 33(1), 37–51.

Theatre for Early Years and Infant Development

“TEY theatre-makers employ practices from a variety of foundations: developmental, aesthetic, educational, pedagogical, musical. For some, the aim of the production is not directly linked to supporting development, instead placing emphasis on creating an engaging, enjoyable, and rich artistic experience. For others, the idea of producing theatre to support specific developmental stages may be the overall goal” (Drury & Fletcher-Watson, 2017, pp. 299–300)

In The infant audience: The impact and implications of child development research on performing arts practice for the very young (Drury & Fletcher-Watson, 2017), the authors describe how research into infant development has supported the emergence and development of the Theatre for the Very Young [TVY] (or Theatre for Early Years) movement. With an understanding of infants’ capabilities and ways of understanding the world, artists can create experiences for infants that are engaging and stimulating, and which capture their natural wonder. The video below is a great example of what TVY can be (Theatre Jacksonville, 2017).

(Theatre Jacksonville, 2017)

Drury and Fletcher-Watson (2017) described throughout their article how infants’ sensory abilities and preferences are different from adults’, and how many TVY performances engage children in multisensory ways. For example, based on research into infants’ olfactory sense (of smell), some companies use scents as part of their production. Another example is that many will also use props that are meant for the young audience to handle, interact with, and perhaps even put in their mouths. This is based on understandings of how children learn about the world, their differences in visual acuity, and the importance of tactile stimulus. Of course, artists would need to take safety and sanitary measures to ensure a safe and pleasurable experience.

Through careful attention to infants’ unique stage of development, artists can design multisensory experiences for young infants to engage their interest, and to support their development.



Drury, R. C., & Fletcher-Watson, B. (2017). The infant audience: The impact and implications of child development research on performing arts practice for the very young. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 15(3), 292–304.

Theatre Jacksonville. (2017, January 28). THEATRE FOR BABIES.

Theatre for the Very Young

Have you ever wondered about drama education with infants? What about theatre performances for infants and toddlers?

I have to say that neither of these questions had crossed my mind until I learned that I was to take a drama education class as a part of my master’s program. This sparked my curiosity and I waited to see how drama education would be approached with children so young.

So far, my thinking as been stretched and I am beginning to see more options for introducing drama to infants and toddlers, but the most interesting revelation came about through a conversation with my professor, Monica Pendergast. The results of which are the subject of my current inquiry, which I will document here. Monica mentioned the theatrical movement called Theatre for the Very Young [TVY], also called Theatre for Early Years [TEY]. Here is a short video describing what it is:

(Stages Theatre Company, 2015)

Over the next several posts, I will review the scholarly literature on this form with the intent of exploring how Early Childhood Educators might integrate some of the concepts and frameworks of TVY/TEY into a their daily practice with infants – not to perform, but to engage with infants in dramatic education.

If you are skeptical of the value of drama education, I recommend a quick internet search, as there is plenty of scholarly research on the subject. Missing, perhaps, is research into the specific benefits for infants, and the practical application of dramatic education with the very young. This blog inquiry aims to begin the process of exploration into these questions.

So, how can we apply the principles an intent of a primarily performative and theatrical art form and rework it into a pedagogical methodology for working directly with infants and toddlers in their early learning and care centres? We shall see over the course of the next week or so. I hope you join me on the journey!



Stages Theatre Company. (2015, August 5). Theatre for the Very Young at Stages Theatre Company.


Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

The thing I like most about education is that it is a process of personal evolution. It can be easy to settle into patterns in your career and life, but education introduces turbulence to a stagnant pool. Each new thought or bit of information that flows into the pool disrupts the surface a little bit. The reflection of myself that I see now is necessarily different from what I saw at the beginning of this course. I have new ripples on the surface that give me a different perspective and hint at the depth of my learning.

Interactive and Multimedia Learning Theories has been an interesting class and initiated a thought-provoking journey into my inquiry topic. It also provided background information and skills that will enable me to become a more efficient researcher and effective practitioner. Indeed, the creation of this blog has facilitated not just the dissemination of my learning, but enabled me to track and explore it, as well as relate it to my practice. In each post rather than just dumping a bunch of academic research, I was able to reflect on the content and my experience. This has helped keep my learning relevant since it is so easy to slide down interesting academic rabbit-holes.

Early on in the course I was introduced to the concept of digital literacy which, combined with media literacy, are critical skill-sets for the connected citizen. By being aware of them, I am able to be a more responsible and critical consumer (and creator) of content. Since I am an educator, I need to be aware of how my use of digital technologies affects and influences others as well as myself.

As this was my first online course, and the content was fairly self-directed, I was a bit apprehensive about my ability to stay on task and not get lost in my own little research world. The regular online face-to-face meetings and my learning pod made me feel like part of a community which greatly alleviated my fears and kept me connected to my peers. In fact my learning pod was so helpful that my colleagues at Entangled Curiosities, Littles in the Forrest, and Children’s Stories and I decided to keep meeting online for the duration of the program, if not longer, to break down our learning and to network.

As far as writing goes, I have always felt that it was my strong suit. However, I have relied a fair bit on my printer and my memory in compiling research papers throughout my academic career. Zotero though, is a game-changer. I tried out this citation manager for my final paper this term and it was quite a different process. I didn’t print a single article, I didn’t laboriously type out the entire reference list, and it was amazing! I will definitely use it throughout this program and beyond. I also have already started using it to organize articles that I use in my practice or that I may find useful later on. Being able to find the article I am looking for and extract the juicy bits is a whole new level of organization for me.

The tools, networks, and skills I learned greatly facilitated my research. By drawing from my practice with infants, conversing with my learning pod, and engaging with the blogs of my colleagues, I eventually settled on a research topic: how infants are socialized to understand mobile devices. I had started digging into the literature on infant development and digital technologies, but it didn’t quite feel like a juicy enough topic. Besides, there was a fair bit of research that said similar things: infants aren’t developmentally able to benefit from screens, and they need face-to-face interaction to learn. These articles also talked about how children’s screen/tech use tended to mirror their parents’ use. Then I found a link in laucoo’s blog that referenced role modelling tech etiquette. This was the smoking gun. I could tie together infant’s innate ability to learn from others, role modelling, and adult’s use of tech. By marrying these topics, I was able to examine how infants are socialized to understand mobile device use and make recommendations for parents and practitioners. Basically, we as adults need to be cognizant of our influence on tiny minds and exhibit desirable tech etiquette, as well as ensure that our devices don’t displace valuable face-to-face connections with our little charges.

The feedback I received for my paper was that it was fascinating, if a bit scary. The idea that adults are socializing infants to understand that mobile devices are often more important to us than interacting with them is not a comfortable thought. One thing I mentioned, but could have devoted more time to, was that mindfulness and moderation are key, and nobody is trying to be a bad parent or role model. This paper wasn’t intended to judge anyone, but to highlight some information so that we can tweak our behaviour to better meet our desired outcomes: well-adjusted babies.

So when I look into the pool now, I see myself differently. I see someone who recognizes the importance of mindfully using modern technologies. I am more cognizant of how the little things I do around infants can contribute to their growing understanding of how people operate in the world, whether it is my intention or not. I am a more efficient researcher, and more mindful of my connections and networks with other practitioners. We can keep disrupting each others’ pools for a long time to come.

How do mobile devices impact face-to-face interactions?

Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash

The other day as I was leaving work, I observed an interaction where a father was helping his two-year-old son get dressed into his snowsuit to go home, all the while talking animatedly on his cell phone. The father was paying attention to the child enough to functionally get him ready to go, but there didn’t seem to be any deeper attention paid, or conversation between the two. I feel like these kinds of interactions are relatively common, and perhaps I only really noticed because I have been thinking about tech use within the infant/adult dyad. This incident made me want to dig deeper into last week’s topic and examine how mobile devices impact face-to-face interactions. Kildare’s and Middlemiss’ literature review (2017), Impact of Parents’ Mobile Device use on Parent-Child Interaction, dug in to describe how the quality of parent/child interactions is affected by parental device use. The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices by Misra, Cheng, Genevie (2016), and Yuan looked at how the presence (or absence) of a mobile device, whether in use or not, affected in-person conversation partners perceived attention, closeness, and empathy during conversation.

Having already discussed the ubiquity of mobile devices in children’s and parents’ lives, as well as the pressure parents’ feel to stay connected, we’ll get straight to the meat of the articles.

The iPhone effect: The quality of in-person social interactions in the presence of mobile devices

“One can communicate with a social group or an individual, regardless of proximity or location, thereby elevating a spatially distant relationship over proximal, face-to-face relationships (Gergen, 2002).” (Misra et al., 2016, p. 280)

Misra and colleagues commented on the sensory overload people experience living primarily urban lives, and how people retreat from this overload by selectively tuning out – like listening to podcasts on public transit rather than engaging with other passengers. They say that there is a new form of cognitive overload, which they call cyber-based overload, which “taxes individuals’ working memory, amplif[ies] distractedness, and mak[es] it difficult for them to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information”.

They also go on to say that phones are not just phones, but a symbolic representation of people\s wider social networks and all the information and communication that phones connect us to. As some of my colleagues would say, phones have agency and purpose, and so their mere presence fundamentally alters an interaction. Misra et al. conducted a naturalistic experiment where they studied how a person’s smart phone or tablet just being placed on the table where they were conversing with another person affected the quality of their face to face conversation. It was an elegantly designed study with interesting results:

  • “If either participant placed a mobile communication device (e.g., smartphone or a cell phone) on the table or held it in their hand during the course of the 10-min conversation, the quality of the conversation was rated to be less fulfilling compared with conversations that took place in the absence of mobile devices.” (Misra et al., 2016, p. 290)
  • “participants who conversed in the presence of mobile communication devices also reported experiencing lower empathetic concern compared with participants who interacted without distracting digital stimuli in their visual field.” (Misra et al,  2016, p. 290)
  • “The relationship between the presence of mobile devices and empathetic concern was more pronounced for participants who reported a closer relationship with each other compared with those who were less familiar with each other.” (Misra et al., 2016, p. 290)

Misra et al. suggested that the reason for this is that while conversation partners were aware of the presence and potential of the mobile device, they were “potentially more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner’s voice, and have less eye contact”. All these verbal and non-verbal cues are important to a fulfilling conversation.

So, the takeaway from this article is that phones are distracting, even when not in use. This distraction represents a cognitive overload which lowers the quality of face-to-face interactions. This study was with adults, but Kildare and Middlemiss studied the impact of device use on parent-child interactions.

Impact of parents’ mobile device use on parent-child interaction: A literature review

“Parents who use their phones during parent-child interactions are less sensitive and responsive both verbally and nonverbally to their children’s bids for attention, potentially leading to lower quality parent-child interactions.” (Kildare & Middlemiss, 2017, p. 579)

Kildare and Middlemiss begin by discussing the displacement hypothesis which I was not familiar with by name but recognize as a common discourse in the nature vs. tech dialogue. Basically, it posits that “time spent with & technology or media may displace and decrease meaningful parent-child connections”. This is critical because it is well-established that child development is strongly influenced by parents’ behaviour and parent-child interactions.

This hypothesis echoes the findings of Misra et al. when they describe the way one retreats from cognitive or sensory overload by selectively focusing. Both articles discuss the way that mobile devices take precedence over face-to-face communication due to the representational nature of the tech. Kildare and Middlemiss also comment on the fact that people are expected to be available to respond to their devices all the time, and the pressure to be continually connected interferes with quality face-to-face interactions. Here are selection of the conclusions that I found the most interesting:

  • 35% of American adults reported to frequently using their phone while playing with their children
  • Parents often use their smart phones to stay connected with their teens, but use it to deliberately disconnect from their younger children by using social media to connect with other adults instead
  • 52% of parents reported checking their phone too frequently, and 28% felt that they were not modeling appropriate device use

The authors also commented on the fact that as parents’ devise use potentially displaces parent-child interactions, parents may experience less positive parenting moments. This, especially where young children are involved, has the potential to cause parents to retreat further into their phone to escape the negative interactions.

Toward the end of the article Kildare and Middlemiss discuss parents’ role modeling of mobile devices, which, to me, is a critically important factor. Young children learn about mobile devices and the social norms surrounding them through observing others interacting with them. So not only are young children’s potential for quality interactions being displaced, but they are learning that the mobile devices is more important than them. The authors wrap up the article by suggesting that parents limit their use of mobile tech in the presence of their children, however even they recognize that this is no easy task.


Parents’ Use of, and Communication around, Digital and Mobile Devices

Photo by Giang Vu on Unsplash

“Parents shape their children’s media habits from the time of infancy, through setting limits on amount and content of media use, helping children understand what they encounter on screens, and role modeling technology use.” (Redesky et al., 2016, p. 694)

An important facet of my inquiry is determining how adults and young children (particularly infants) actually communicate in an environment where digital and/or mobile technologies are being used. In A Naturalistic Study of Child and Family Screen Media and Mobile Device Use by Domoff et al. the authors studied what was being said by, and to, young children when any screen or mobile device was in use in their immediate home environment. They had several interesting findings:

  • Parents’ mediation of screen media tended to be reactive and aimed at restricting use or explaining technology functionality.
  • Active mediation was initiated most by the children (in preschool and school-age groups) asking or commenting on the content of the media. This was less evident in the infant group as they lacked the speaking skills to initiate those dialogues.
  • Siblings played a more dominant role in mediation than parents.
  • Parents and children negotiated screen time limits.
  • “Parallel family media use was common. Multiple family members engaged with their own mobile devices while simultaneously being exposed to background screen media (i.e., media multitasking).” (Domoff et al., 2019, p. 401)
  • “Active mediation of TV has been found to mitigate the risks of exposure to violent media (e.g., aggression; Nathanson and Cantor 2000), and enhance positive effects of prosocial media (e.g., Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood; Rasmussen et al. 2016).” (Domoff et al., 2019, p. 402)

The second point was the most interesting to me as my research to date has highlighted the importance of mediating screen media with very young children. Domoff et al. describe active mediation as “consist[ing] of parents’ communication with their children about media content, including characters’ actions and motivations”. It looks then like this is not happening very much with the youngest children. If parents don’t often initiate active mediation, then the ones with more consistent speech skills are privileged, as they are able to initiate these interactions. The authors last point about family members engaging with separate devices while together made me wonder about whether the adults were so wrapped up in their own device use, that their interactions with their children were reactive rather than proactive.

Then I wanted to know about parents’ perceptions of their own media use around their children. Enter Parent Perspectives on Their Mobile Technology Use : The Excitement and Exhaustion of Parenting While Connected by Radesky et al.. In it, the authors describe a study where they conducted a series of interviews to elicit parents’ nuanced and complex feelings toward they way that they use screen and mobile technology around their infants.

“Cognitively, they described the act of multitasking between technology and children as stressful or less effective; specifically, they described how the cognitive load of doing work or accessing information via technology often makes it difficult to read and respond to children’s social cues in the moment” (Redesky et al., 2016, p. 699).

Parents felt tensions between their tech use and their parental and daily responsibilities. This supports the Domoff’s findings that parents interactions around technology use tend to be reactive and rarely focus on the content that their children are accessing unless the child brings it up. It seems that parents are distracted by their own devices and so are less mindful of their children’s experiences with screen and mobile media than they might like to be. The question is, how does parental use of mobile tech influence children’s socialization and development? Does parents’ attention to their devices impact their child’s sense of self worth? What kind of role-modelling are we adults doing? It brings me back to the idea of consciously role-modelling tech etiquette with young children. It seems we also need to be more mindful of actively mediating young children’s tech use, especially if they are too young to ask us about it.

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