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Digital Media & Children

"There is no scientific or technological advance that is either good or bad in itself. It is only as we human beings give meaning to science or technology that they will have a positive or negative thrust." -Fred Rogers

We are in a brave new digital world. How can we help support children to develop 21st century skills and a healthy digital diet? With more than a million apps and other new media available to parents, caregivers and educators the search for quality material can be overwhelming and confusing.

We have pulled together tips, articles and resources from the leading experts on how to evaluate new media and use new media with children to support their learning and development.

Children still learn best when engaging with the world around them and with others. Technology is merely one more tool to facilitate learning.

The Three C's: Content, Context, and Your Child

Lisa Guernsey, author of Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens has created an important and helpful framework for parents, caregivers and educators.

  • content of the media
  • context in which it is being used
  • the individual child who is engaging

Take the quiz to see how you are using technology today with your children and see how you score.

Quick Tips on Using Screen Media With Young Children

Select content that is designed for your child's age and is interactive. Children learn best from any experience when you engage together. Talk about what you are doing together and build on what you are leaning by relating it to the real world. For example, studies have shown that toddlers are 22 times more likely to learn something from a screen when an adult engages in the learning!

Think about:

  • How you can make screen time more interactive?
  • How do your own screen habits impact children?
  • How can we move children from being consumers of media to creators of media?


  • Each child is unique. Just as you want to find books on topics that interest your child to make reading together more meaningful, consider you child's interests and development when selecting and engaging in media together.
  • Watch for children who become dependent on media. Children may be using it as a way to self-soothe or find media to be more predictable than other children and adults. Find media that is interactive and social for these children and set limits.


  • Expand what you are learning with a screen by following it with a real world activity. Are you playing an app with leaves and trees? Go outside and find some leaves together. Create an art project out of the leaves you find. Identify your leaves together.
  • When reading an ebook, read it first without the bells and whistles, this will improve story comprehension, conversation and vocabulary. Children thrive when we talk together and ask questions during reading.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends stopping media use 1 hour before bedtime/naptime to not disrupt sleep patterns. Poor sleep habits impact: behavior, mood, learning and obesity. AAP has a new online tool to help families create a healthy media plan.
  • Engaging in new media is a 21st century skill. Explore apps, ebooks and other media that allow you and your child to also be creators! Take photos and narrate your own story, this reinforces vocabulary, story awareness and seqencing.

You know you child best! Find more easy, practical suggestions.

Source: Screen Sense: Making Smart Decisions About Media Use for Young Children Young Children: March 2015. Lerner, Claire.

Tools to Evaluate Quality & Educational Apps

Many apps and new media claim to be "educational". Are they apps that foster real learning?

Here are some tools with questions to help guide you in identifying quality apps and media:

Five Questions Everyone Should Ask Before Choosing Early Literacy Apps

Evaluating Apps and New Media for Young Children: A Rubric

Review Sources for Apps & Media

Here are links to trusted review sources and curators of quality apps for children. Find the sources that work best for your needs as a parent, educator or caregiver.

Review sources with some paid subscriptions:

General review sites:

Sources for educators:

App reviews especially for parents:

Perfect for Circle Time & Stoytime:

In addition to the many resources above, Little e Lit has a list of book apps and best storytime apps field tested and loved by children's librarians and much more to explore!

Beanstack, a Sno-Isle Libraries resource available to customers has a list of curated apps to browse. The app descriptions in Beanstack always include an idea for parents and educators on how to extend the learning of the app with children.

Sno-Isle Libraries Resources

The library has many new resources for you to use with children using your laptop, smartphone or tablet. You can watch a Mo Willems video on Hoopla. Read a kid's magazine together while waiting for an appointment. These are just a few of the many things you can download with your library card!

Read more about digital tools for young children in our newsletter.

Each of our 23 libraries also have iPads available for families to use together in the library. These are loaded with early learning apps for children and caregivers to explore and enjoy together. Contact any of our community libraries to learn more. 

Sources & Further Reading

ALSC White Paper: Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth. Cen Campbell et al. March 11, 2015.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Growing Up Digitial: Media Research Symposium. October 1, 2015.

Ask I-LABS Outreach: What's the Big Deal About Screen Media? (posted 2/23/16)

Hendricks, Clara. Ten Ways to Help Parents Navigate Technology with Children. Children & Libraries. Summer 2015.

Jacobson, Linda. Welcome to Readialand: A Bold New Movement Embraces Tech's Potential to Support Early Literacy Across Income Levels. School Library Journal. July 2016.

Kabali, Hilda et al. Exposure and use of Mobile Media Devices by Young Children. Pediatrics Vol. 136, No. 6, December 15. Accessed June 17, 2016.

Rainvulle, Kristin Nicole and Bill Gordh. Toward a Narrative Classroom: Storytelling, Media and Literacy. Young Children September 2016.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Always Connected: The New Digital Media Habits of Young Children.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Family Time With Apps.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Take a Giant Step: A Blueprint for Teaching Young Children in a Digital Age.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.

Koester, Amy, editor. Young Children, New Media and Libraries: A Guide for Incorporating New Media Into Library Collections, Services and Programs for Families and Children Ages 0-5.

When It Comes to Kids, Is All Screen Time Equal? Part 4 of the TED Radio episode Screen Time - Part 1.