LSC Journal Club Reflections: Not All Screen Time is Created Equal

screen time

Our second Denver Metro Area LSC meet up was a long-delayed blast! This time we munched on delicious snacks at The Denver Bicycle Cafe while we dug deep into the subject of screen time.

Julie (from Tales for the Tiny) started us off with an icebreaker where we shared our favorite personal apps. I’m always on the lookout for personal productivity tips, so I was excited to learn about Wunderlist! As a big fan of Trello, I’m curious how Wunderlist will compare. For the podcast people, Pocket Casts also looks amazing.

This was a great ice-breaker because it showed just how ubiquitous apps are in our everyday lives. The research article we read (Putting Education in “Educational” Apps: Lessons from the Science of Learning) stated that 56% of Americans own a smartphone, but PEW estimates that number is now closer to 77%.

I really enjoyed the article we read this month. As a former teacher, I love when educational theory is applied to what we do in library land. The purpose of the article was twofold:

  • Guide researchers, educators, and designers in evidence-based app development
  • Set a new standard for evaluating and selecting the most effective existing children’s apps

What is this standard? Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and her co-authors suggest evaluating educational apps around Four Pillars of Learning… plus one!

  1. Active Learning
  2. Engagement in the Learning Process
  3. Meaningful Learning
  4. Social Interaction
  5. Scaffolded Exploration Toward a Learning Goal

There was a lot of information to unpack in this article, and while we loved the deep dive, our immediate concern was how to share this information in a family-friendly format? Lu shared a great acronym to help us easily remember and share the components of a high-quality app for kids: G.A.M.E.S.


Questions We Explored:

  • How can we use apps in quality ways in youth programming, such as storytime?
  • How do we share this information and promote healthy, quality app use to our families?
    • Especially since so many apps don’t stay around long enough for in-depth study! How do we keep our lists current, relevant, and curated?
  • Should we hesitate to recommend apps that cost money?
    • Also, many free apps contain ads, which are distracting and detract from the quality of the app!
  • Do we only recommend “educational” apps?
    • Aren’t libraries all about reading for pleasure?
  • What about the other side of screen time research? We felt this article definitely glossed over the opposition.

Thoughts We Shared:

  • Technology is not a second parent! So often we see the iPad being used as the babysitter, but as Emily so aptly put it, technology should support (not substitute) parent engagement.
  • Recommending apps without explaining why is not enough. As Beth pointed out, we also need to empower parents to choose on their own.
  • With the increasing trend to remove/share/replace school librarians with paraprofessionals, we should also reach out to our local schools and educators.
    • I got all the feels when the authors mentioned the large number of schools jumping on the tablet bandwagon. I’ll never forget finding out ONE WEEK before school started that my kinders were getting a 1:1 iPad program… and I had never held a tablet in my life at that point!

Ideas We Had:

  • Host an “app-sit” parent/caregiver education series!
  • Does your library have a tablet? Create an “app of the week” exploration station…
    • …with signage explaining why it’s a good app for kids!
  • The picture book Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzberg is a great launching point for a media mentorship tip during storytime! This sweet story is great for toddlers or preschoolers and has a great twist at the end.
  • Encourage grown-ups to talk with their child about what they’re doing on their phones- e.g. “I’m reading about…”

Other Implications:

There’s a lot of good stuff in this article that has relevance not just to how we select and recommend quality apps, but also to how we plan and deliver storytimes and other youth programming. Are we making connections with children’s existing knowledge base? Do we encourage active participation from our audience (e.g. Do we give children enough wait time for responses? Are we respectful of their own active role in the learning process and naturally inclined problem-solvers? Do we show, not simply tell?) Are we building in scaffolding when we plan for storytime?

For example… Kathy Hirsh-Pasek cites Goldstone & Day and shares that “if learners have truly created a new understanding of a concept, they should be able to use that information to solve novel problems and flexibly transfer that knowledge to other problems.” She then gives an example, saying that if a toddler knows that 2 plus 2 equals 4, but NOT that 2 plus 1 equals 3, numbers likely have no meaning for that child. The child’s knowledge of addition is incomplete. They haven’t been able to transfer that knowledge to other situations.

Think about this in terms of the flannels we use in storytime. Are you always counting down from 5? What do you think would happen if you took away 2 little snowflakes instead of just 1 at a time? Would your children recognize that you took more than one away? This article was a great reminder to take a step back and think about how to be more intentional with moments like these. Use these moments to help children build a conceptual framework, not just rote memorization!

Additional Resources:

ALSC: Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth (White Paper, Blog Posts, Professional Development and more!)

Claudia Haines @ Never Shushed (fantastic starting place and loads of additional links to explore, including this great Evaluating Apps and New Media for Young Children rubric and the DIG: Diverse and Inclusive Growth Checklist for Inclusive, High-Quality Children’s Media)

Speaking of Claudia, she’ll be teaching an AMAZING class through Library Juice Academy this fall! Check out Media Mentorship in Storytime and Beyond: Supporting Newborn to Five-Year-Olds and Their Families!

AASL’s Best Apps for Teaching and Learning (love these lists every year!)

School Library Journal App Reviews (also including an annual top 10 list)

Madison Public Library (check out Carissa’s App Picks for Kids and the App Fairy Podcast!)

Best Practices for Apps in Storytime & From Apps to Robots: How to Evaluate Digital Media for Literacy Learning (archived ALSC webinars)

Who Are We?

We’re a local group of youth services professionals in the Denver Metro Area! Every two months, we meet up to discuss the latest and greatest hot topics and research related to our field. We’re a part of the larger Library Services for Children Journal Club, a nationwide professional development group initiative launched by Lindsey (of Jbrary fame) and her coworker, Christie, in 2017. To learn more and find a group near you, please check out

Interested in joining us next time? Use the Connect tab on top and reach out to me via Twitter or Email, and I’ll keep you posted! See you in April!

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