Welcome to September’s Media Moment! This month, Kristelle Lavallee, CMCH’s Content Strategist, shares a story about children integrating media into their daily life activities, including cooking! These stories are meant to help create a village square of commiserating and co-celebrating the many ways media intersect with the lives of children. Please comment and even submit your own ‘Moment’ to share with your fellow readers.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
Media Moment: Making Moussaka with Media
I used to occasionally babysit for the Christous*, a family who had moved from Greece to Boston. They had two young girls, Stacia and Meliza (Mel), ages 5 and 3, who both loved technology and art, passions held by their parents, a developer for Apple and a former museum curator. Their playroom was filled with art supplies and the latest Apple gadgets, and I found myself fascinated by how they utilized both.
At first, I was hesitant to let them use any of the tech while I was with them—only because in my experience, most parents want babysitters/nannies to engage their children in tech-free activities, reserving tech time (which includes TV) for when they need a break, or to keep children occupied with a contained, somewhat quiet activity. This was not the case in the Christou home—in fact, knowing my love of media, they insisted on having the girls show me their latest app download, favorite YouTube video, and online art creation in addition to all of the other non-tech activities, toys, and accomplishments that recently captured their attention. What was of particular interest to me was Stacia and Mel’s ability to blend both high and low/no tech activities into seemingly harmonious, balanced play without their parents’ threat of time limits or insistence that they have to spend time outdoors and/or without tech.
For example, our days consisted of playing at the Frog Pond playground, with occasional breaks from the slide to take selfies with the iPhone of the two of them smiling happily with one of the bronze frog statues. From the playground, we would walk (or stroller) through Boston public garden, marveling at the Swan Boats, climbing a favorite tree, and watching a duck bathe in one of the fountains with occasional breaks to FaceTime with their favorite aunt (in Greece) about the squirrel they saw jump out of a tree, because squirrels are their aunt’s favorite animal.
Stacia and Mel’s integration of tech and nature seemed natural to me—kids growing up in a digital world appreciating the beauty of seeing caterpillars crawl through blades of grass while simultaneously appreciating that they can snap a photo of it in order to identify what kind of caterpillar it is with a quick Google search.
Dinner too, would be a balance of tech: The three of us would search YouTube for how-to videos on Greek cooking and then prepare a festive dish as best we could for ourselves. We’d even take screen shots of the YouTube food and compare it side by side with shots of our own dish (side-by-side comparison made possible through a photo collage app). Once the collage was made, we emailed the compilation to their parents so they could guess which one was the YouTube dish and which one we had made.
Our days would end with reading. If the girls were tired, I’d read a book selected from their immense “library” (an oversized book shelf packed with their favorite paperbacks), or Stacia would regale us with a tale she would read from a storytime app (which helped her sound out difficult words), often insisting on reading us the story twice, first in Greek, and then in English (the app had more than 50 languages).
Stacia and Mel were by no means perfect children—having expensive tech for toys that seemed commonplace resulted in two broken iPads (within 18 months) and a water-logged ipod (Mel wanted to play music for their goldfish). And the girls still needed time limits, reminders, and occasional time-outs when they were unable to transition from one activity to the next. However, these difficult times were the result of wanting to spend more time with whatever they were doing (tech or no tech), from playing in the sandbox to watching YouTube.
My experience with the Christou family helped rekindle my love of using tech with children. In today’s world, tech is not just reserved for adults, nor is it inherently “bad” for children or something that should be hyper-or under-monitored. Tech can be integrated into daily life activities, enhancing learning, imagination, and creativity. Teaching children how to use tech in balanced and mindful ways can help them manage their time and utilize tech in the most optimal ways while ensuring that their experiences are both vast and varied.
Today, the Christou family splits their time between Silicon Valley and Crete. Although busy lives and distance separate us, every now and again, I’ll receive an emailed collage asking me to distinguish between YouTube artwork and the “real” version they made. I’ve only misidentified twice. :)
*All names have been changed to protect privacy