Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wartella et al.

It has been almost two full years since I committed myself to returning to school with the intention of learning more about child development and entering the field of children's television. As I began my quest for knowledge, I spent a significant amount of time learning what information was already out there and easy for me to access. I joined the Cynopsis: Kids! listserve which allowed me to become better acquainted with many of the production companies, licensing agreements, and ratings for children's media. I often logged onto the Kidscreen website which provided me with a great deal of information about the key creative players in the industry and currently hosts a wonderful blog written by the president of Little Airplane Productions, Josh Selig. I also spent a significant amount of time on Amazon searching for books about different children's television programs and research. One name that continuously came up in my search was Dr. Ellen Wartella. Dr. Wartella is currently a professor at UC Riverside and a leading researcher in children's media. One book seemed particularly interesting to me as an aspiring scholar. I purchased Children and Television: Fifty Years of Research which was edited by Dr. Wartella with Norma Peccora and John P. Murray.

I have selected several articles from this book for my independent study. They include: "The Changing Nature of Children's Television: Fifty Years of Research," "From Attention to Comprehension: How Children Watch and Learn From Television," and "Is Television Healthy? The Medical Perspective." "The Changing Nature of Children's Television" provides a comprehensive history of television created specifically for children and its corresponding research. This provided me with a great understanding of the roots of the industry and how that past has influenced modern programming. I previously did not understand the full impact of the 1980's on television programming. It was marked with the introduction of cable television into everyday life, Nickelodeon as the station for children, and programming as "a showcase for licensed products" (p 26).

The article that provided me with the greatest amount of information for this independent study on content development was the piece on how children watch and learn from television. I previously did not know that television viewing decreased when children went to school, although it seems quite logical. I was also very intrigued about "active" viewing and the idea that children make "moment-to-moment decisions about when to attend, when to look away, and when to monitor sound for an interesting moment" (p 48). It also emphasized the importance of formal features in a child's viewing experience. As I develop my program, I'd like to refer to this text as a guideline for creating formal features that will not only be interesting to a child but that will also inform the rest of the program.

Although the book was published only three years ago, I did find that there was little comparison of television viewing versus technology use. I believe this is due to the fact that technology, particularly in regards to child-specific media, has experienced a huge boom in the past three years. With the inception of the iPhone application, Video on Demand, and Hulu, television viewing "looks" different. I am interested in finding out more about this comparison and doubtful that research can keep pace with the evolution of the medium.

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