Top 5 parenting tips for media literacy in preschoolers

Media literacy – that ability to think critically about the angles and agendas of on-screen content – can be taught to preschoolers. Modern Parenthood guest blogger Rebecca Hains, a children's media culture expert at Salem State University, in Salem, Mass., offers 5 parenting essentials for media literacy in preschoolers.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Parenting preschoolers in a media saturated world starts with monitoring their media intake – here, Aidan Seiden, 2, is greeted by Sesame Street's Elmo, after a partnership announcement between the National Children's Museum and Sesame Street, Feb. 3, 2011, in Wash.

1. Prescreen media

Sesame Workshop/AP
Prescreen media by selecting shows that are educational: "Sesame Street," for example (a 2009 scene from which is shown here featuring Michelle Obama).

Preschoolers can have a hard time understanding that what’s on screen is created by other people, and not just a window into some other location in the world. Media literacy experts assert that if we give children the tools to create their own media, they will better understand how mass media is created. They will know that other people have made decisions about what stories to tell, what shots to show on screen, and what words the characters will say – this kind of knowledge is truly a form of literacy.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

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