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Dear Reader,

Welcome to August’s Media Moment! This month, Richard Chalfen, a CMCH Senior Scientist, shares a story about parents realizing that they need to increase their monitoring of their toddler’s media use. 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,

The Mediatrician®

Media Moment: Dance Inspiration at a Very Young Age

I recently heard about a mother and father who were totally surprised by their 2-year-old’s dance floor antics. During a week’s vacation at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, they had the opportunity each night to go dancing and found that parents often danced with their young children.  One night their daughter, Emma, made it clear that she wanted to dance by herself instead of being held and moved around the floor with her daddy.  Then the surprise:  they had never seen the range of dance moves coming from Emma’s “innocent body”!  Emma became the center of amused attention, bending over, slapping her behind, looking left, then right, in perfect time with the fast music.  And “all this in front of so many guests!”  An early reaction was to laugh at such a small person doing such adult things — but their sense was “this is just too provocative”.  More to the point – they immediately had to ask themselves:  “Where did she get this stuff?” Clearly not at home!

That night the three family members had a discussion.  Praising Emma’s dancing style, they asked her how she learned that dance, since “Mommy and Daddy didn’t dance that way.”  After some playful talk, they deduced that the child’s nanny and family had been teaching her to imitate a video they often played when Emma stayed at the nanny’s home.  The older kids all danced to this music and enjoyed teaching the moves to Emma, who loved the music.  I’ve since learned the dance was inspired by a cartoon character who Emma loved.  Maybe a little young to be viewing this material?

In the meantime, Emma’s parents had been using their smartphone to amuse her at mealtimes and other occasions, including showing a video to encourage her to brush her teeth.  Potty training (video-induced encouragement) might not be far behind (pun intended)! Emma’s parents could clearly see the value in sharing media with their daughter, but were now faced with needing to regulate the content and Emma’s use, both in their care and when she wasn’t with them.

By the end of the trip, Emma’s parents agreed that they needed to talk to the nanny and ask her to refrain from showing Emma videos geared towards older children, and encouraging her to dance in ways that they felt was inappropriate for her age. Indeed, who’s to say that Emma won’t become a ballroom star and win contests someday – but the point is: not this model of dance at the age of 2.

~Richard Chalfen

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