A group of educators from Queen Anne’s County recently traveled to the National Association for the Education of Young Children Conference held in Nashville, Tennessee, and attended a variety of sessions. The goal was to bring back vital information to increase the group’s knowledge regarding a variety of topics affecting children’s development and learning.
One session focused on how to effectively communicate with families about children’s screen use and its impact on development and learning. Presenters Jean Rogers, M.S. Ed., program manager at the Children’s Screen Time Action Network, Dr. Patricia Cantor, professor of Early Childhood Education, Plymouth State University, and Mindy Holohan, faculty specialist I, Dept. of Family and Consumer Services, Western Michigan University, provided valuable information at this session. Their presentation, supported by recent research, backed the theory that families of young children need to be conscientious consumers when using technology and media.
The presenters emphasized the importance of using “Strengthening Families Framework” as well as the Appreciative Inquiry approach, during parent education, to assist parents in gaining the knowledge to support their children’s conscientious use of technology and media.
The Strengthening Families Framework is a research-informed approach to assist families in building five key protective factors: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and social and emotional competence of young children.
Mindy Holohan’s research is rooted in understanding the impact of screen media and technologies on adult-child relationships, family functioning and early childhood environments and practices. The Strengthening Families Framework is used as a tool to improve adult-child relationships, family functioning, as protective factors are built.
The presenters shared a recent study, published in November of 2019, in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. The study reported on the findings regarding the correlation between increased screen time and structural differences in young children’s brains. One area of concern mentioned in the study involved the decrease in myelin, which is an important part of the brain with a role of insulating nerve fibers, creating strong connections between those fibers, thereby assisting in increasing the speed with how impulses (messages) are conducted in the brain.
The team traveling to the NAEYC Conference included the following individuals from QACPS: Susan Davis-Walbert, supervisor of Early Learning PK-2, Title I, Title III and Migrant Education, Amanda Ensor, Title I family engagement specialist, Michelle McNeil, SES teacher specialist, Laura Dean, SES pre-k teacher, Carrie Nuse, SES pre-k teacher, Danielle Vacek, SES pre-k teacher, Linda Gent, CES reading specialist, Jennifer Osborne, MES reading specialist, Jennifer Reburn, KIES reading specialist, Elizabeth Miller, Judy Center Early Learning Hub program coordinator and Lori Yarbrough, Judy Center Early Learning Hub early childhood liaison, The NAEYC Conference was funded by the MSDE Striving Readers and PreKindergarten Expansion Grants received by QACPS.
Under the direction of Susan Davis-Walbert, the QACPS team has conducted additional professional development opportunities, regarding information gained from the NAEYC Conference, for all QACPS pre-k teachers, pre-k assistants, and a select group of staff from partnering agencies and organizations.
Elizabeth Miller, LCSW-C, is program coordinator for the Judy Center Early Learning Hub of Queen Anne’s County and co-chair of the Council for Children and Youth of Queen Anne’s County.