As media and technology have an increasing presence in our lives, more parents are seeking guidance in how to select the best media for their little ones. That has been the case for many parents who have participated in the national Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors program. They have expressed their worries and struggles with the topic. Often, they don’t even know where to start as they grapple with concerns about how media and tech could have a negative impact on their kids’ healthy development.
In response to this need, Abriendo Puertas/ Opening Doors and Common Sense joined forces to co-create a brand new session addressing the healthy, balanced use of media and technology with young kids. We integrated research-based tips and information in a friendly, relatable voice so parents can feel empowered and more confident in our 24/7 connected world.
The new Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, 3rd edition curriculum offers that needed education support to nurture parents’ leaderships skills as their kids’ first and most important teacher and advocate. Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors is a successful parent-led, bilingual and bicultural program that focuses on reaching parents of children ages 0-5 by partnering with more than 500 community based organizations across the country.
“I’ve had the opportunity to implement the Abriendo Puertas program in the previous edition, and wow, this edition is really much better,” said Marisela Blancas, one of the facilitators recently trained in the new edition. “The new changes in the curriculum are going to make a big impact in the community. It is updated in the area of technology, because parents were constantly asking questions about it, and this will help a lot to clarify doubts, myths, beliefs, and so on.”
One of the changes in the 10-part curriculum is a brand-new interactive session on media and technology. I had the exciting experience and honor to lead and co-write this new addition to the program. It’s been a great opportunity to share key messages that are at the core of our work at Common Sense. As lead author, I worked closely with Sandra Gutierrez, Founder and National Director of Opening Doors. We also collaborated with several colleagues including the Vroom app team.
Following the Opening Doors format, the 2-hour session incorporates the three archetypal characters of Negative Norma, Thomas Tomorrow, and Positive Patricia to invite conversation and interaction among the participants as they reflect on their own use of media and tech. It also includes videos in both English and Spanish, interactive activities, and easy-to-use resources, such as #DeviceFreeDinner, our Common Sense campaign encouraging families to enjoy meals without any devices at the table. Our latest PSAs feature Sesame Street characters. The curriculum also addresses a demo of the Vroom app.
The creation of this session was a rigorous process of writing, editing, and most importantly, several rounds of field testing with focus groups to help us refine the content based on parents’ feedback. I led one of these focus group sessions in downtown Los Angeles a couple of years ago. Opening Doors’ partner, Saint Anne’s, provided the space and recruited 15 lower-income Spanish-speaking moms to participate in the trial. It was inspiring to observe how hungry and interested they were in learning more about technology, how to identify and choose the best media for their kids. All of them said that knowing how Opening Doors had helped them in other areas such a positive discipline, social emotional learning, and parents advocacy, they trusted the new media and tech session would provide them with needed guidance.
I am still as excited today as when I was first approached to create this session with Opening Doors. Having the opportunity to share our expertise and to learn from these families has certainly been a meaningful professional experience. It has been inspiring to see their faces light up as they discovered there are resources to support the interactions their kids have with media and technology. Providing this empowering, balanced guide to navigate the world of media and tech with young kids with the thousands of working parents that are part of Opening Doors in the country, is something I feel fortunate to do, and is an important part of our mission at Common Sense.
María Alvarez is VP, Common Sense Latino. Her Latino-focused parent advice has been featured on ¡Despierta América!, Noticias Telemundo, and CNN en Español and published in La Opinión, El Mensajero, and La Raza, among many other outlets. She has produced dozens of articles and features on commonsensemedia.org/latino that provide Latino parents with simple, actionable advice to help them learn how to choose and use media and technology wisely. Prior to working at Common Sense, Maria was a television executive producer and reporter in Venezuela, Honduras, and Chile for CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, and the Associated Press. Maria earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Universidad Central de Venezuela and her master’s degree in communications from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. You can follow Common Sense Latino on Facebook and follow María on Twitter @mariaoxalvarez.