The New Bedtime Story Is a Podcast

From the NY Times – As podcast makers look to expand their audience — just under a quarter of Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month — they’re turning to a previously untapped demographic: children.

Click here for more on this interesting trend.



1 thought on “The New Bedtime Story Is a Podcast

  1. Podcast? Nah, the Bedtime Story of Parenting before Podcasts
    Recently, news of podcasts being produced by young people and promoted by National Public Radio caught my eye while reading the New York times. “It’s a little funner than television…my brain works better…” commented a seven-year-old in the article about parents seeking a guilt free alternative to screen time. While guilt free may be more available than some parents think, the daily hour by hour immersion in technology, compared to person to person or free play, with or without background music, is more of the issue.
    On my scale of desirability, classical or jazz music in the background of a free play environment would be the best inside environment for the child, while playing outside with age appropriate toys and climbing systems would be equal or better. Parents cannot always provide the optimal environment for their children all the time, yet minimizing the value of creative free play, book exploration, water and art play would border on irresponsible. Most parents understand the obligation we feel, to provide a stimulating, enriched and nourishing environment for our children to grow in, especially from “Birth to Three” and in Pre-Kindergarten. Daily decisions have to be made in parallel process with work, family time and the obligations of home management.
    As I write this listening to “Wow in the World Episode 30: Mucus Mansions & Pooping Plastic” I realize how much skill and dedication is involved producing an audio program with so many sound effects, and how much this could stimulate a child’s imagination, if they were fully attentive to the content, and able to process the vocabulary. Yet I find myself looking out the window as I listen, and wonder what the experience of the child would be, or could be employing a variety of content mediums.
    I have to believe audio visual pairing connection would be superior, seeing pictures of the ocean as this episode describes so much, yet for a student riding bus or negotiating activity gap time, the opportunity to listen to this educational, spoken content would be a valuable choice compared to the streaming silliness of pranks, sometimes violent lyrics and failed athletic attempts found streaming online these days. But at home? I shudder at the thought of a family sitting silently listening to this type of entertainment product in place of parents reading to their children, playing a game, doing art, playing music or relationally engaging in any other traditional, interactive past time.
    The value of a child listening to their parent read them a story, sharing the page turning discovery while hearing to the inflection of the parent’s voice is indisputably superior to shared listening of a podcast. It almost puts the parents in a one down position from the computer, as the parents are modeling attention and deferment to the programming, instead of modeling themselves as the educator and leader of the family. Children benefit from experiencing their parents as knowledgeable and involved in shared activities, as this authenticates the importance of the activity, and the parent’s investment o presence with their child. Conversely, children whose parents choose attention to the smartphone over the parental gaze and running conversation are sending a message that the small screen is more important and interesting than the child, a message that may have deeper developmental ramifications than we realize
    Our first communication as a parent to child is our gaze, touch and voice. Our children learn to locate us, experiencing comfort by our voice, and will come when they hear our call from a distance. The sound of a parent’s voice will soothe a scared baby, reassure a troubled teen or instill fear and insecurity. How we are heard has a lot to do with how we speak. When our children are very young we will hold them in our arms, look upon their faces and speak sweetly with a big smile.
    Our language may be something we take for granted as adults, yet is a powerful tool affecting many dimensions of our daily life experience stereotypes. How we speak to others and listen to them will have a strong effect on how they relate to us, and the level of friendship, intimacy or distance we will create in a relationship.
    I would like to see parents reading a book to their child, simultaneously recording their voice with page turn cues so the child could hear their parent, if the parent could not be present when they re-experience the book. This way each re-hearing of the book would be a partial bonding experience with the parent via their recorded voice, instead of the voice of a podcast stranger. While podcasts are a novel idea easily downloaded from the stream, let’s not forget the audio-visual resources available in our libraries, schools, and at tag sales. As parents, we have minimal television guilt because when we chose to have our pre-teen children watch the screen it was a VCR or (cough-cough) VCR tape of an age appropriate program with no commercials.
    Ignoring the omnipresent effect television and mass media projects on today’s families is a challenge. What are you going to do about streaming content and responsible parenting? How much is your family going to watch? What experience will your family miss because they chose to watch screens of different sizes and location, either at home or on the go? What are they going to want because they saw it on a commercial? What are they never going to discover, or what will you discover because we sat on the couch instead of doing something else? Or choice is regular digital disengagement, where recreational activities are non electronic. I know leaving my small children alone with the remote and 200 cable channels is irresponsible, yet now that they are teens it is more difficult to control what they absorb. We used to let our children watch a few channels that are child specific, yet we prefer to have them watching non-commercial DVDs. We chose to cut the cable in favor of a free digital antenna that delivers about 60 channels including all major networks on locally broadcast stations. We rounded out our pre-teen screen time with specific interests including classic movies and cartoons, animals, nature, geography, history, space, oceanography, hobbies and educational programming. We have a vast menu of videos available from our inter-library loan menu, which we continue to read, and order online. We also use a DVD by mail service to keep two new movies coming at all times. We chose to strongly supplement regular television time with play, drawing, recorded music and sometimes nothing so our boys can learn to find things they are interested in and initiate investigative play. We did this by having our toys, musical instruments and art supplies stored in visible places around the home when they were younger. We did not put the toys out of sight because they then seem to become out of mind. We had piles of games and toys in every room so our younger children can explore and find things to do. Some people may say this is clutter, but I say it is a thoughtful design encouraging children to use the non-digital resources available to them.
    This is ultimately about choosing to be more active and less passive as parents, about being more involved in an amazing world that does not exist forever, before it is too late. It is about accepting an invitation from children to play, laugh, learn, love, wonder, ponder and explore the world together. This is about turning my back on many of the popular culture diversions and distractions of modern life to choose a simpler time of imagination, creativity, exploration, sharing, watching, success and joy. All too often adults, and now children are drawn to our mobile devices and away from the experience of the moment. While the benefits of smart phones cannot be understated, I believe it is essential to develop filtering standards and resist the need to respond so quickly, thus preventing interruption and dilution of the unique and limited moments available as young parents.
    David Carr, MA is a father of twins, a past family preservation counselor, past clinical case manager, past Individual and family counselor, past adjudicated youth intervention specialist (unlicensed Masters Level Clinician). Mr Carr is currently a Full Time self employed REALTOR, Full time Dad, writer, environmental activist and Inland Wetlands Commissioner living in Southern Connecticut. Mr. Carr authored #4015Days and #Virtualimmersion (Drowns Holistic Development).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s