Bristol Conversations in Education - Screen time, surveillance and stuck places in digital literacies

20 April 2021, 2.00 PM - 20 April 2021, 3.00 PM

Professor Karen Wohlwend, Professor of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education, Indiana University, US

Online event. Please register via the link below to receive further details.

This event is part of the School of Education's Bristol Conversations in Education research seminar series. These seminars are free and open to the public.

Hosted by the Language, Literacies and Education Network (LLEN)

Speaker: Professor Karen Wohlwend, Professor of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education, Indiana University, US

Screen time signals a global public health concern that promotes limiting children’s digital viewing practices. In the last decade, warnings against screen time increasingly constrained children’s access to and use of digital media, at school and at home (Blum-Ross & Livingstone, 2016; Ernest et al., 2014; Livingstone & Blum-Ross, 2019; Laurciella, Wartella, & Rideout, 2015). Periodic warnings from pediatricians and educators cautioned caregivers about the threat of overexposure to screens and urged time limits on the use of digital devices (e.g. Pediatrics, 2016, 2018). Screen time applied the medical models of “addiction” to screen technologies, pathologizing digital literacies practices. And then COVID-19 happened. Suddenly, Zoom classrooms moved into young children’s homes. mandating that young children spend hours each day gazing at screens.

In this presentation, screen time is examined through the lens of a nexus of practice (Scollon, 2001) - a set of tacit expectations and practices that members of a culture expect of one another. What is the impact of screen prohibitions and children’s disparate early access to technologies in cultures that expect people to not just use but to think with screens? How do screen time warnings (and now screen time mandates) intersect with family literacy practices?

Nexus analysis (Scollon, 2001; Wohlwend, 2021) reveals screen time as a dense site of engagement where the discourses of professions of medicine and education concentrate and inscribe contradictory expectations for using digital literacies and self-monitoring of children by their families (Foucault, 1978; Luke, 1992). Children’s use of screens is a site of engagement where multiple conflicting dilemmas and discourses collide and conflict, putting teachers and parents in impossible double binds. This quandary is unsolvable by individual teachers and families, yet they feel compelled to deliver effective and developmentally appropriate instruction via Zoom while protecting children from excessive exposure to screens.

Karen Wohlwend is Professor of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education at Indiana University, Bloomington. She studies young children’s play as an embodied literacy that produces action texts made with moving bodies in dramatic play centers, video games, digital animation apps, and live-action filmmaking. Her books include Playing Their Way Into Literacies: Reading, Writing, and Belonging in the Early Childhood Classroom and Literacies that Move and Matter: Nexus Analysis for Contemporary Childhoods.

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Christie Smith

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