Even though the sixth book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Cabin fever,was released last November, according to Publisher’s Weekly it’s still one of the best-selling books for the current year. The books’ popularity is somewhat surprising. It doesn’t have the off the wall humour of say Dr. Seuss, nor does it dabble in the wizardry made popular by Harry Potter. Instead, it has Greg.
Between my job here as Director of the kidsmediacentre and the 11 years I’ve spent in schools teaching media literacy to kids, I’ve seen and heard a lot of stories – indeed too many stories – about bullying. One story that comes to mind is a digital literacy workshop I gave at an elementary school in Maple, Ontario in 2007. It was the new, heady, free-for-all days of Facebook, Club Penguin and Habbo Hotel and the principal was juggling his share of technology related “incidents”. The provincial Safe Schools Act had just been revised to acknowledge this new digital culture and the rise of cyber-bullying. The language of the act was revised to say if a child’s physical or “digital” behaviour affects the moral tone of the school community, then school administration would have to consider disciplinary action.
I was describing some of these new digital destinations and the principal was illuminating parents on the underbelly – and student-related behaviour – on some of these sites. His request was simple: could parents please spend more time supervising their kid’s digital pursuits so he could spend more of his time educating – versus disciplining – children. A parent in the audience stood up and corrected the principal. “If my kid gets into trouble when he’s at home on the computer then it’s my job to discipline him, not the schools,” he argued. “You do your job, I’ll do mine.” In what can only be described as poetic justice, this father’s son stood up and said “No dad. That’s wrong. The principal told us today that a school community includes home and school and what we do at home can affect our lives at school and what we do at school affects our lives at home.”
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of squishing paint between my fingers onto a blank piece of paper, or using multi-colored crayons to create strange, new magical creatures and places.
These were integral to the development of my imagination and creativity and the early beginnings of my life-long love of art. It strikes me children today don’t get as much exposure to “hands-on” fine arts, the way I did growing up. They seem to have a lot more “hands-on” experience with technology; painting, drawing, designing and creating on computers, tablets or game consoles. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that kids are learning technology at a young age and can learn to create using this medium.
But I believe allowing a child to regularly explore traditional mediums – holding a paint bush, pinching a crayon, manipulating a pencil – versus tap, swipe, tap, is vital to a child’s physical, social and emotional development. Research confirms traditional activities like drawing, painting & molding promote a broad cross-section of skill development including hand-eye coordination gross and fine motor skills, visual perception and creative thinking.2 Art can help a child in other areas of study as well and has been proven to raise academic scores.1 It allows a child to develop more mentally, physically, socially, verbally and cognitively.2
But beyond research and science – while digital drawing encourages creativity, it can’t replace the sheer tactile joy of discovering new colors while mixing and slopping them onto a piece of paper with an oversized brush or messily drawing your very first green cow that lives in a far-off world. Having access to fine art tools at home and at school, and having someone to show me how to use these tools, allowed my imagination and creativity to run wild. This passion for art has stayed with me throughout my life – and even if it wasn’t the main focus of my studies – it was there, influencing me somehow. Not all children are exposed to art at school or at home, so as an adult art lover, I do what I can to bring it into their lives.
Even if a child doesn’t grow up to be the next Michelangelo or Picasso, their life will be more full and rich because they have art in it. It may be messier than the paint app on the iPad, but the benefits of using traditional mediums like paint, markers, crayons or pastels are well worth the extra minutes of clean-up. You’ll be amazed at what lives in the imagination of a child when it’s allowed to escape onto paper.
As the London 2012 Paralympics came to a close, I watched a series of incredible athletes and incredible people inspire youth around the world with lessons of endurance, perseverance, and hard work.
Many of the competitors in these 2012 Games trained their entire lives for a chance at the podium. More than 60 years after the original Stoke Mandeville Games were held in London for the disabled veterans of World War II, these games provided inspiration not consolation. One of the most inspiring Paralympic athletes is Canada’s own Patrick Anderson.
Anderson has been a member of Canada’s Paralympic basketball team since the age of 17, winning 3 gold and one silver medal in the process. In the 2012 final, Anderson led Canada over Australia 64-58 with 34 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
The 33-year old is now a global icon for the sport, but it wasn’t an easy road. In 1989, at the age of 9, he was struck by a drunk driver and lost both of his legs above the knee. He discovered wheelchair basketball the next year and took to it quickly using his athletic ability and incredible tenacity and has since inspired a generation.
“Pat’s a tremendous ambassador for Canada basketball and I believe the Paralympic movement in general,” says Jody Kingsbury, communications manager at Wheelchair Basketball Canada.
“Somebody of his talents and skill when you get to see him play he just captivates people and I think that the more people that can see somebody like that participating at the highest level, it creates more awareness here in Canada and around the world for wheelchair basketball and the Paralympics.”
While Anderson inspires those who watch him play, he’s also a public figure maintaining a blog where he shares information on Paralympic sport and his experiences, and photos of him interacting with fans young and old.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white… the only color that really matters is green”
– Peter Griffin (Family Guy)
The advert that takes 30 seconds out of your precious gaming experience even before loading time, is it really important? Why can’t the game start right away like the good old days? These are a few questions that came in to my head a few years before I really understood the importance of in-game advertising. It’s true that it frustrates a casual gamer sitting in front of a screen eagerly waiting to play a new exciting game. If the gamers actually knew and understood the formula “Ad + waiting = money + gaming” it would all seems so simple. Money is the backbone of any industry, as well as the gaming industry.
As an early childhood educator, I often find myself defending my love for kid’s media and my belief in its educational potential. While I
have read about the negative impact that too much or poor quality programming can have on the developing child, I have also witnessed children learning through television and digital games. I have also read about the positive influence that media can have when time, knowledge and care are given to its development. Identifying quality educational media can be quite the challenge, especially with the amount of content that continues to flood the market. A search for “kids educational” in the iTunes store alone can leave you overwhelmed with the 10,000+ apps available. For those who are committed to the identification and development of quality educational media, understanding the important role that applied and evaluative research can play is an invaluable tool.
‘tween // [tween] preposition 1. contraction of between. noun 2. Also, tween. A youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.
The Tween Demographic
The definition of a “tween” market (ages 8 to 12) has changed the advertising landscape as we know it. Danielle Hulan, in her study of branding and tween identity, writes that this vulnerable generation has been “raised by a commodity culture from the cradle [… their] dependably fragile self-images and their need to belong to groups are perfect qualities for advertisers to exploit” (Quart, cited in Hulan, 2007). In fact, many corporations hire the expertise of market research companies like Look-Look to hunt for the next “cool thing.” The marketing of “cool” forces tweens to grow up quickly. Industry research reveals that children 11 and older don’t consider themselves children anymore. The Toy Manufacturers of America has changed their target market from birth to 14, to birth to ten years of age. By treating tweens as independent, mature consumers, marketers are essentially erasing the parents from the picture.
I sit at my computer, in my living room. The TV is on, Facebook is open, messages are chiming and a bouncing icon is telling me I have unread mail. I would love nothing better than to sit here uninterrupted and write this blog, but the realities of digital media are allowing me to fall victim to the media multitasking phenomenon.
Girl gamers carry a stigma in society; they’re girls who like ‘boy things’ (video games and sports). The genre needs to be revamped into a place where girls can play games designed *shock* FOR GIRLS. It’s time to revolutionize the market. So why is the market this way? And what can we do to start changing it?
Media offers a world of entertainment and learning possibilities for children and youth. The kidsmediacentre explores kids' media futures and is committed to supporting cross-platform content producers in Canada to ensure the kids' media industry is vibrant, indigenous and committed to the healthy growth of children.