Digital Connect: Sharing Experiences with Parents Benefits Children’s Media Literacy (Essay)
The essay below is from a piece that I did for Loyola University (Chicago) and their website, digitalethics.org:
Though originally considered to be a much more secondary contributor to social learning, digital media and the sudden mobility of mass media have made it important to examine the media’s role in children’s socialization and parent usage of technology during quality time with their kids. New ways for parents and children to use digital media arrive every year. Media and interactive technology have pervasive influence on development and learning, and may have the power to influence our values and conceptions of adulthood; namely, priorities, expectations around relationships with others and definitions of success. Therefore, it is imperative to think about the implications of media and interactive technology use during childhood in a way that will help increase clinical understanding of media effects throughout the lifespan. Narrow-mindedness has led many researchers and policymakers to overestimate the short-term negative impacts that interactive technology and digital media have on today's youth. However, there is evidence that indicates we may be underestimating the longer term positive effects of the technology. There is a need to define what fluency is when speaking about digital media and interactive technologies. This means fostering a discussion on the three E's: expectations, level of exposure and amount of experience with digital media that is appropriate to give our children.
In 2016, my research lab at Northwestern University (the Center on Media and Human Development) collaborated with Common Sense Media to create an extensive report called, “Common Sense Census: Plugged In Parents of Teens and Tweens.” Within this report, we collected data from a large probability-based national sample of 1,800 parents of both teens (ages 13-18) and tweens (ages 8-12). The point of the report was to understand the “media diets” of modern parents and their attitudes, perceptions of and behaviors towards youth media usage. Four key findings of the survey were:
We’ve conducted many studies and published several academic papers in our lab that have made me certain that parental usage habits with screen media is highly correlated to the screen media habits of their children. Furthermore, we are now aware that children spend more time with electronic media than they do in any other activity, aside from sleep. Although most of the empirical research has stated that the negative effects that stem from media exposure may be reduced by parental monitoring of children's media use, there is a lack of clear understanding of the mechanisms and extent of these protective effects.
While I believe that prospective effects of parental monitoring of children’s media on physical, social and academic outcomes should continue to be examined, I think that we need to change the focus of our research to also look at the prospective effects of increased parental collaboration and joint media engagement with their children to develop best practices for media usage in the home environment. Although parents we survey and interview always seem adamant about monitoring their children's screen time, can they adequately do so when they are spending so much time alone consuming content on their own devices? That said, should parents need to be so wary about letting their children have unlimited access to interactive technology?
The "I have mine, you have yours" attitude that I’ve observed many parents (myself included) display in their rationale behind their rules around media devices in their households leads me to think we must actively encourage parents to not only engage in the same mediums as their children, but also find ground for joint experiences with their children. Through sharing experiences with youth and learning alongside of them, digital media can provide an avenue for youth to connect positively with their parents, peers and communities, and to promote constructive meaning-making in their lives. These insights also have important implications for reframing digital media usage within social services, and improving policy and practice to make these more youth-oriented. Through enacting these youth-oriented changes, programs can better support and inspire youth’s passions for the pursuit of meaning.
I recently attended the National Association of Media Literacy Education’s (NAMLE) pre-conference in Chicago at the Erikson Institute. During the all-day discussions, media producers, educators, practitioners, scholars and administrators all gathered to explore the current concerns of teaching media literacy in early childhood. During media literacy expert and NAMLE’s founding President Dr. Faith Rogow’s midday talk, she emphasized that media literacy is true power and agency in today’s world. We must build a foundation of media literacy education to prepare youth for the media environment they are facing every day, but often we misconstrue literacy as avoidance of technology altogether. What I took away from Rogow's presentation was that we as researchers need to not just look at literacy as avoiding negative media effects but examine media literacy as a life skill that is acquired over time. This means we have to stop viewing media literacy from a deficit perspective and more so as a resource pedagogy.
Ultimately, critical media literacies help nurture creative thinking, enhance students’ personal media practices and engender sustained change in local communities. In today’s media-saturated world, students are highly active in digital and media spaces, and it is the responsibility of parents to leverage their capacities to teach life skills. These interactions are the type that will equip students with not only academic proficiencies but also the confidence to recast existing media narratives and critique oppressive philosophies. It is through this framework that parents can best answer the question of how to ethically parent children to both use consume and produce new media.
Taking the emphasis off technology itself and becoming more worried about the cultural shifts that happen within these mediums is imperative. When most experts first conceptualized best practices for parenting in the digital age, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr did not exist. Our research indicates that social media is now an intrinsic part of the everyday lives of today’s youth. Moreover, portals to digital spaces are always emerging, changing, and closing. As new tools and spaces are developed and gain traction, the size, scope and practices of affinity spaces will change. Just as literacy researchers call for continued theorizing of adolescent literacies in the digital age, it is imperative for parents to be willing to enter these affinity spaces and understand how they shape their children's literacy practices and meaning-making processes.
The approach we should take as parents is to understand that all of us have changed the way we live because of the way we use these devices, but we also must be aware that they are just tools. They are neutral. What we do with them, and what we demonstrate for our children, and what we let our children do with them is what determines the outcome. Just as we need to learn to drive a car safely, we need to learn how to drive the internet safely. Again, this is another tool that increases our freedom, increases our ability to do things, but also has great potential danger. But we don’t get in cars thinking, “oh, I could get addicted."
We must turn our youth into social architects, and the best way to do so is to continue to encourage parents and children to explore both their critical mindsets and participatory practices together. This means rethinking technology in terms of the future of work, respecting/encouraging multiple points of entry and encouraging parents to model the media usage behaviors that they would like to see in their children. However, parenting techniques must be informed by growing research from media scholars and pediatricians on the long-term consequences of repeated exposure to electronic media and emotional development. Only then can we truly bridge the digital divide that occurs at the second level — where household technology is available, plentiful and heavily used, but rarely a shared experience.
For more, see the full article at: https://www.asc.upenn.edu/news-events/news/comm-major-alum-qa-jabari-evans-c04
Communication Major Alumnus Q&A: Jabari Evans (C'04), Recording Artist and Doctoral Student
02 Oct 2017
Jabari Evans (C'04)
Undergraduate Student News, Awards, and Events
Alumni News, Awards, and Events
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Communication major at Penn, each Monday this semester we're running a series of Q&As with notable alumni. The series kicked off with the Washington Post's Ashley Parker (C'05) and Teach for America's Mika Rao (C'96). We continue today with Jabari Evans (C'04).
Jabari Evans graduated from Penn in 2004. He is a recording artist (known by the stage name Naledge), a nonprofit founder and director, a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Social Work, and a current doctoral student at Northwestern University.
According to Wikipedia, you published a book as a teenager. That’s not something many people do. How did that happen? And what was the book about?
It was a book of essays and poems. I have always been interested in being some form of writer or journalist since age 7 and this was just my decision to publish what I was writing in my personal journals. The funny thing about that is during my Freshman year at Penn, most people were feeling each other out and trying to figure out that "thing" that made us different within the Penn community. I would casually mention that I self-published a book and people were so amazed. I never thought it was such a big deal, though. Since my parents were academics and had published things before, I was heavily exposed to people who were helping Chicago youth to explore their creativity in that way. It really was with their (my parents) guidance that I was able to pull it off. It's my outdated views but you can still buy it on my site (link is external), if interested... Ha!
How did you get into the music business and what has your experience been like?
Around the age of 15, my love for writing transformed into a love for performing and rhyming. I explored that talent the minute I got to Philadelphia and was blessed to meet a number of like-minded individuals who encouraged me to keep going. My managers at the time (Givenchy Martin C'01 and Dan Solomito C'02) are both Penn grads, my producer/DJ (Mike Aguilar C'01) was a Penn grad, and several other music people I interned for during my time in Philadelphia (particularly Angela Nissel C'98) were Penn grads. It was a roller coaster ride that took me to Los Angeles to live after graduation to record demos, halfheartedly work corporate jobs, perform nightly in smoke filled bars, and drive all over the country in a van until I got a record deal. I signed to Sony in 2006. I did it very hard for 8 years until I decided to go back to graduate school. The experience was great and it has taken me all over the world. I've met and collaborated with most of my heroes, and it was that time that has given me the leverage and access to do the work that I primarily do now.
You started a nonprofit called The Brainiac Project a few years ago. Can you talk about what the organization does and why you’re passionate about it?
The Brainiac Project is an organization that allows me to leverage my experience as a touring hip-hop musician to be a social agent promoting change in music pedagogy and the benefits to personal creativity brought about by beat-making and songwriting. My mission is to promote recording arts careers to at-risk youth and young adults in Chicago via workshops, mentorship opportunities, educational support, and providing access to recording studio experience. I believe that by encouraging youth to explore their music dreams they can gain social competence, self-confidence, and positive connection to peers, mentors, and community. Much the way I did when I found hip-hop.
As a current Ph.D. student, what are your academic interests and goals?
As a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern, I strive to evaluate programming that could possibly address the digital divide, achievement and attendance gaps for Black youth that have continually been documented in empirical research. I came to Northwestern to explore the anecdotal experiences I had related to how youth in low income communities of color are using digital media to create content on the Internet. In planning for my second year project, I have spent the last six months leading an exploratory ethnographic study within Chicago Public Schools. This study evaluates the program outcomes of Foundation of Music’s school based hip-hop songwriting and digital music production program (SWP) in seven Chicago elementary schools. In the next 5 years, my goal is to grow my non-profit in unison with my research, consult others on cultural competency, and garner a tenure-track position somewhere.
How has your undergraduate Communication degree impacted or influenced your career?
Besides launching my music career, Penn was the place that impacted my recent decision to pursue doctoral work. My first foray into academic research came during my junior year at Penn when I was given the opportunity to be a undergraduate assistant to Dr. Amy Jordan while she had a grant to study childhood obesity and television viewing. I recruited and conducted focus groups with several families in the Philadelphia area to talk about the relationship of their media usage to their food intake. Though I didn’t know it at that time, this experience with Dr. Jordan served as the catalyst for peaking my interest in investigating issues that affect the everyday lives of urban youth, particularly as related to media usage. I used my time at ASC and Penn to investigate these interests by taking classes with people like Eilhu Katz and Joseph Turow, as well as leading African American scholars like Guthrie Ramsey, James B. Peterson, and Howard C. Stevenson. Many of my former classmates are already professors, and I ask for their advice all the time. I graduated 13 years ago, and I am always drawing from this time in my life. It has been an invaluable network. I haven't been back since I performed at Spring Fling in 2010, but I hope to visit campus again soon!
Raised on the East side of Chicago. Globally Local. Cheers!