In the News

Mr. Rogers’ Message of Kindness and Empathy is Needed More than Ever

In November 2019, NBC News published an article titled, “Mr. Rogers’ Message of Kindness and Empathy is Needed More than Ever,” in expectation of the upcoming movie about the TV Host, Fred Rogers.  This article talks about the making of the movie and how important messages like that of Fred Rogers could be for the current generation of young people..

In this article, Dr. Calvert is interviewed about how Mr. Rogers’ show could have an impact on young children today.  She discusses how young children like Mr. Rogers’ target audience will not have been exposed to partisan politics and social media so far, and as such a show like Mr. Rogers’ would be a positive first cognitive experience for them.  She goes on to say, “Teaching children at young ages about values of kindness, and empathy and caring for others, is something as a culture would make us flourish if we spent more time doing that.”


Read the complete article here.



The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With Youtube

In July 2017, The Atlantic published an article titled, “The algorithm that makes preschoolers obsessed with Youtube”. The article discusses Youtube Kids, a stripped down version of Youtube, and the algorithms that are designed to find what kids want to watch and what causes them to become “obsessed”.

The Atlantic interviews Dr. Calvert on suggestions to why preschoolers might get addicted to these Youtube videos generated by these algorithms. She expresses that these children enjoy having these videos filtered for them because “who doesn’t want to get a surprise?”. She goes further to say that this process of filtering videos works because children are attracted to repetition as they like to “watch the same thing over and over” again.

The article continues to say that these forms of apps may help as an educational tool, though it does not come without its drawbacks.


Read the complete article here



Can Media Characters Become Teachers for the New Generation?

In October 2016, Bold published an article by Dr. Calvert titled, “Children’s favorite media characters as teachers”. The article delves into the possibility of developing technology using media characters that children have strong parasocial relationships with to help teach STEM concepts.

In this article, Dr. Calvert addresses how media characters can actually enhance children’s learning, “My vision is that the use of favorite media characters as teachers will make a land of make-believe where pretense flourishes one that will have lasting and enduring effects on children’s early cognitive development.”

Furthermore, the article explains the Children’s Digital Media Center’s new projects and the pilot studies that are not only researching but developing software to actualize this idea, “In testing our intial prototype… we found our prototype to be effective Children attended much more to Dora than to an experimenter who sat beside them or to distractions in the room.”


Read the complete article here.

Dr. Calvert speaks to NPR about Artificial Intelligence in Children’s Toys

In October 2015, Dr. Calvert joined NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show to discuss the benefits and risks of the emerging technology of artificial intelligence in children’s toys in the episode “Siri for Kids? Artificial Intelligence In Children’s Toys”.  Mattel is set to release “Hello Barbie,” a Wi-Fi enabled Barbie doll that utilizes the same software found in Siri.  Listen to our director and the show’s guests discuss the potential outcomes for our children and these new interactive toys!


Listen to the podcast here.


What are the Impacts of Screen Time on Development?

In January 2013, The Washington Post featured an article titled, “Managing your children’s screen time”.  The main question they address is: At what age do we begin to experiment with technology as an educational tool?

In this article, Children’s Digital Media Center director Sandra Calvert, speaks about the Center’s studies on the “video deficit,” the hypothesis that toddlers learn better from observing behaviors in real life than on a screen.  In an ongoing study, the center is using iPads to measure the strength of “parasocial” (or intimate, one-sided) relationships children have with on-screen characters and how we can leverage these in education.

“Twenty-first-century literacy is dependent on screens, and our early findings are promising,” Calvert says. “Tuning it out is a missed opportunity to open up a wonderful world of exploration that involves learning with your child.”

Read the complete article here.

Dr. Calvert Speaks on the Kid’s tablet Market in Bloomberg Businessweek

In a December 2012 article in Bloomberg Businessweek, Dr. Calvert provides insight into the formal features that attract children to interactive media.

Amazon is helped by the fact that many children are drawn to tablets. “When they touch a tablet, it responds contingently,” explains Sandra Calvert, professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center at Georgetown University. “In that sense, it’s far superior to a television that you’d sit and watch, and it’s much easier to operate than a traditional computer.”

Read full article here.

Hsin Yi Foundation in Taipei

In July 2010, Professor Calvert visited the Hsin Yi Foundation in Taipei, Taiwan, where she gave a number of talks on children and media.

Additionally, in June 2008, Professor Calvert visited the Hsin Yi Foundation, where she and Dr. Christakis each presented three invited lectures. Two lectures were to professionals and one was to families about the influence of media in children’s lives.

Summaries of these lectures are below:

1) Media Exposure

2) Symbol Systems of Media in Relation to How Children Think at Different Ages

3)  Master the Learning Effects of Digital Media

Dr. Christakis, Chief Executive Officer Chang of the Hsin Yi Foundation, and Professor Calvert at the Fifth Hsin Yi Childhood Conference.

Food Marketing to Children and Youth


Over the past four decades, our nation’s childhood obesity rate has tripled, resulting in a national health crisis.  In December of 2005, Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? was released by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).  Drs. Sandra Calvert and Ellen Wartella of the Children’s Digital Media Center were members of the NAS committee who studied this issue and who wrote this book about how marketing practices are contributing to childhood obesity.

On Thursday, February 23, 2006, the Children’s Digital Media Center and the Center for Research on Children in the United States hosted a family policy forum on Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? This forum brought together members of the National Academy of Sciences panel who discussed what families and policy makers can do to protect children from advertising and marketing practices that promote unhealthy diets as well as explored how those same techniques can lead to healthier diets.

Panelists included J. Michael McGinnis, M.D., M.P.P., the Chair of our report and a Senior Scholar at the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies;Robert Post, Ph.D., J.D., and the Davies Professor of Law at Yale Law School;Ellen A. Wartella, Ph.D., and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of California Riverside; and Sandra L. Calvert, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director of the Children’s Digital Media Center.

This forum was supported by gifts from the Stuart Family Foundation and by grants from the Georgetown University Graduate School and from a Georgetown University-wide Initiative on Reflective Engagement in the Public Interest.

2005 – Sandra Calvert received the Outstanding Applied/Public Policy Research Program Award from the International Communication Association

2005 – Sandra Calvert received a distinguished achievement in scholarship and research at Georgetown University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

May 19, 2004—Washington, DC— Senators Lieberman, Brownback, and Clinton introduced the Children and Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA), a bill designed to provide competitive funding for researchers to examine the effects of media on children’s development

Review the CAMRA bill here.
Read Senator Joseph Lieberman’s statement here.

In 2003, the Children’s Digital Media Center hosted a symposium
featuring child development specialists studying the role of television
and interactive digital media on children. The panel of experts
discussed the gaps in research in the children and media area.
Special guests included:

Senator Sam Brownback Senator Joseph Lieberman

Complete transcript

Hosted by the Children’s Digital Media Center at the College of
Communication at The University of Texas and the Department of
Psychology at Georgetown University.