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Young Audiences and New Authors in a Multimedia Landscape

Hobbs, R., Cipollone, M., Bailin, E., Moore, D.C. & Schlesinger, M.

Today’s children experience a very different set of choices, opportunities and challenges
as compared to their parents or their grandparents. Of the 50 million American children age 11
and under, nearly all are participating actively as young audiences with a variety of forms of
mass media, popular culture and digital media. They are also beginning to use technology tools
as modes of creative expression themselves, developing the capacity to be authors in a
multimedia landscape. Adults who care for children need to have a better understanding of the
increasingly complex media and technology experiences that children have as audiences and
authors, both in and out of school.

Parents and teachers recognize that the rapid expansion of media and technology use by
children and youth is taking up ever-larger portions of their waking hours. Children are
swimming in a virtual stew of new media genres and formats that are transforming rapidly.
Growing up in a constantly connected home, children have hundreds of choices of things to do
with media content, including using television, music, handheld and console videogames and
applications (apps), DVDs, cell phones, the Internet, and social media. At school, children can
use laptops, video cameras and other devices to support their emerging skills of expression and
communication and promote engagement in the learning process.

This report highlights findings from a study of 454 children in Grades K – 5 enrolled at
the Wayne Elementary School in the spring of 2011. Results show that WES students are highly
active consumers and creators of media and technology messages. They have encountered a
variety of new media formats and are beginning to develop the skills necessary to use these tools
for entertainment and informational purposes. Growing up in media-saturated homes, children in
this community see their caregivers as having substantial expertise and authority regarding the
Internet and other media. But parents and teachers can continue to develop their capacity to
provide an appropriate balance of activities, support and guidance that will help children thrive
in today’s media- and technology-intensive culture.

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