ARIA Spotlight: Katia Kutlesa

Katia Kutlesa's ARIA project: SCREEN

I wanted to do an ARIA project because I wanted to gain experience in research. In the past, I volunteered in labs, which was a valuable learning experience; however, I wanted to have more responsibilities within a lab and conduct my own project. I choose to do my ARIA project this summer under the supervision of Dr. Aparna Nadig, because I loved volunteering in her PoP Lab during Fall 2019 and Winter 2020, where I learned about the SCREEN study. This study examines how children learn words from screens - it fascinated me. I wanted to learn to collect and analyze data, and how to write an article - which I did within this project.

My first responsibility for my project was to collect and analyze data about young children’s, aged 16 to 36 months, screen usage before and during physical distancing due to COVID-19. Because of the current situation, I recruited participants by email and through social media. Ekaterini (the Pop Lab Coordinator) and I sent about 400 emails. Recruiting participants by email for an online questionnaire study was new for everyone in our lab and was a learning curve. However, through hard work and collaboration, we figured out the most efficient way to do it.

The second component of my project was to conduct research and write a review article about the implications of video chat use for young children’s learning and social-emotional development, in collaboration with two other lab members Fauzia (prior undergraduate research project student and project coordinator) and Aaron (master’s student), and two faculty supervisors. More specifically we looked at learning words, taking turns, and fostering familial relationships via video chat for toddlers. We also we talked about the limitations of video chat and how some can be countered with a contingent co-viewer. One challenge we encountered was having a clear story and a single tone for our review article. We overcame this challenge by working together and editing and commenting on each other sections. Also, our supervisor, Dr. Nadig and Dr. Onishi help us through this challenge by giving us comments and guidance. Another challenge that I overcame was to learn to critically appraise the research studies rather than summarize and to back up arguments with sound evidence. Dr. Nadig and Dr. Onishi helped me with this challenge by picking apart the research studies and looking at the differences and similarities with me. Also, they helped me by showing me how to organize and structure my evidence. We submitted an abstract of this review article to the journal Infant Behavior and Development for a special issue about Digital media and children under 3 years of age. We were invited to submit a full article for consideration for publication, which was one of the highlights. On August 1st, we submitted the full article to the journal for review. Hopefully, it will be accepted (following requested revisions) and published.

A second highlight of my ARIA internship was the Anti-Racism and Equity reading and discussion group in the lab. Dr. Nadig decided to start having these meetings when the current ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest began. I learned so much about anti-racism, equity and how to enact change through the reading and by speaking with other members of the lab during these meetings. In these meetings, we also created a lab code of conduct that makes inclusion a priority and should help to include everyone in the lab.

A third highlight was all of the teamwork and team conversation that occurred during my project. I learned so much from others and through collaboration. I loved helping others, like the lab volunteers, to learn about research. My experience during this internship was fulfilling because I learned so much about research (data collection and analysis, literature review and writing an article) and teamwork. My ARIA project has shaped my education and career path by confirming that I would like to study child psychology and I would love to work with children. Also, it has fostered a new interest for a career in research. The ARIA internship helped me learn and grow in my professional life. I would suggest to any McGill Arts students to partake in this internship because it not only helped me in my professional life - I also really enjoyed it! I would like to thank the Arts Student Employment Fund for their generous contribution to my ARIA project.

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