The sociologist, Ulrich Beck, famously described social class as a ‘zombie category’, suggesting that thinking in terms of social class was blinding academic researchers to the real experiences and ambiguities of modern life. And yet, inequalities in the UK not only persist, but are in fact growing. The UK ‘suffers from high levels of relative poverty and the poor in Britain are substantially poorer than the worst off in more equal industrialised societies’ (Diamond & Giddens, 2005, p. 102).Existing academic studies examining very young children’s relationships with television and related media tend to be quantitative, light-touch and arguably rather reductive in relation to social class (with a focus on what and how much children watch). Social class is most often inserted as ‘another variable’ into existing debates about the negative aspects of television and related media.
My Children’s Media Conference session for 2016 gave me an opportunity to speak about my PhD study, which investigates preschool children’s perspectives, home practices and behaviours with television and related media by paying close attention to the totality of their physical, emotional and literate responses as well as the social context of the family and wider community.
CMC attendees were given the unique opportunity to glimpse into the everyday lives of five UK preschoolers (aged 3-4) and their families living in predominantly lower socio-economic status (SES) communities and three UK preschoolers living in comparatively higher SES communities . In particular, the session addressed questions about how the media consumption of these children differs. How do different families engage with television, both socially and physically? What role do parents, siblings and peers play? How do different families talk about television and related media and how do they frame learning activities around television and related media? What do very young children learn from television and what is the relationship with early childhood literacy development? Most importantly, how can such evidence translate into actionable insight for industry partners interested in engaging with a diverse preschool audience?
These insights were brought to life with original video footage of children’s engagement with television and related media. Although this footage has been removed to protect the identities of my child participants, spoken accounts of their home practices with television and related media are retold in the Vimeo.
Diamond, P., & Giddens, A. (Eds.). (2005). The new egalitarianism. Polity Press.