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Educational Media: Screen Time and Literacy

With televisions, computers, video games, and cell phones, modern culture makes it difficult to escape time in front of a screen, especially for our newest generation of kids. Deb LinebargerLisa Guernsey, and Marnie Lewis discuss what the growing exposure to media means for children’s literacy development.

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Program description

With televisions, computers, video games, and cell phones, modern culture makes it difficult to escape time in front of a screen, especially for our newest generation of kids. Today, children six and under watch over 28 hours of television a week, nearly half of them have used a computer, and more than one in four has played a video game.

What does this growing exposure mean for our children’s literacy development? Is it more harmful than helpful? Can parents and teachers use media effectively in their homes and schools? If so, how? In this webcast, three experts will tackle the questions raised by the new and growing field of educational media and discuss the research being done, the practical solutions available, and the many answers we’re still hoping to find.


Deb Linebarger, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Communication in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the director and principal investigator of the Children’s Media Lab. Her research focuses on the relationships among children’s developmental status, their use of media, and their larger social worlds. Her work has been presented at numerous conferences and published in psychology, communication, education, and pediatric medicine books and journals.

Lisa Guernsey, is the author of Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age 5. She is also the Director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank and incubator for explanatory and investigative journalism on pressing policy issues, and a regular contributor to the Early Ed Watch blog. Lisa has been writing about education for nearly 15 years, as a staff writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times, and has contributed articles to The Washington Post, Newsweek and other publications.

Marnie Lewis is the Instructional Technology Coordinator at Tuckahoe Elementary in Arlington, Virginia where she evaluates educational sites and software to enhance instruction and works directly with staff to integrate technology in to lessons. She received a B.S. in elementary education from Northeastern University, completed graduate work in instructional technology through George Mason University, and has taught in classrooms for over 10 years. She is also a PBS Teacher, a Smart Exemplary Educator, and a Discovery Star Educator.

Watch the webcast

Related resources

For parents

This book by presenter Lisa Guernsey presents practical advice on the best ways to use and manage screen time with your kids.

These sites help child learn how to read at home and identify letters and sounds.

These sites help kids from pre-K to 3rd grade begin to understand what a social network is and how to properly interact in that environment.

For teachers

Educational media companion sites discussed in the webcast

Other media organizations and sites to know about

Discussion questions

Educational Media 101

  1. As Lisa Guernsey described, screens are everywhere these days and adults use screens more than ever before. In your mind, in what ways are screens “information windows”?
  2. How is your school adapting to the changing screen times of today’s students? In what ways have teachers in your school integrated educational media into their classrooms?
  3. How can parents and teachers put into practice the notion of “content over time” as Dr. Linebarger recommends?
  4. What narrative and expository shows are you familiar with? What shows do your kids and students talk about? What skills might be developed through those shows?

Impact of Educational Media

  1. Of the educational media shows you’re familiar with, which ones follow a curriculum as suggested by Dr. Linebarger? If you’re not sure whether a show follows a curriculum, how could you find out?
  2. In what ways can technology be used as a hook to inspire future learning on a topic?
  3. Consider the curriculum you teach. What concepts do you teach that might benefit from an educational media source? How could you share that information with parents?
  4. Lisa Guernsey outlined her acronym, SPLERN, for the audience. What aspects of the acronym resonate with you? What would you add?
  5. Marnie Lewis described several things to consider when considering the educational value of a website. What criteria do you use? Do you share those criteria with your child?

Educational Media in Action

  1. Lisa Guernsey described intensive and less intensive ways of watching TV with your child. How can you incorporate the characteristics of what she described in your home?
  2. Marnie Lewis described two barriers to teachers’ integration of technology in their classroom. As a teacher, what barriers do you face? What can you do to overcome those barriers?
  3. What opportunities do you see for using educational media to differentiate instruction? Provide examples for both struggling readers and for advanced learners.