Encourage Active Participation in Library Programs

From School Library Journal: Parents Glued to Their Devices During Storytime? How To Encourage Active Participation in Library Programs

These days, it seems like screens are everywhere—and they are. The average adult spends about three hours a day on their smartphone, and 98 percent of households with children zero to eight have mobile devices. While technology connects us, it can distract from those right in front of us. Whether it’s an incoming text, taking and posting pictures, or fielding app notifications—we’re all more distracted now. These interruptions can impact adult social interactions, but the effect on parent/child engagement, dubbed “technoference” by social scientists, is more troubling.

Young children learn best through face-to-face interactions and reciprocal conversations with trusted caregivers, so what happens when adults are digitally distracted? In a 2017 study, researchers found that cell phone interruptions led to infants and toddlers learning fewer words. Another study pointed to consequences for children’s social-emotional development: Babies seven months to two years whose mothers were frequently on the phone played and explored less as they tried to get their mothers’ attention back. They also had difficulties re-engaging in play.


Children’s librarians have seen more phone use by parents and caregivers during library programs, with parents busy scrolling through screens rather than engaging with children during playtime and storytime. Some adults need prompting during activities designed for face-to-face interaction, and they often respond best when they are reminded about the important role they play in their child’s development.

Many librarians make announcements at the start of storytime to discourage or limit phone use. Betsy Diamant-Cohen, executive director of the early literacy program Mother Goose on the Loose, uses a script including these words: “For your child to get the most out of this program, it is important to fully participate. Please put your cell phones away and participate joyfully in all of the activities.”

Read on for the full article Parents Glued to Their Devices During Storytime? How To Encourage Active Participation in Library Programs on School Library Journal.

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