Is technology a fast track to learning or a roadblock?Parents are under so much pressure to raise kids who do well in school. And children's programming, for better or worse, takes advantage of this need to succeed. When it comes to how ready they are for school, and how well they'll do when they get there, common sense is the rule. Your kids can't learn more from a TV screen than they can from you. A computer can't take the place of a real experience. That said, kids love to explore media. And there are ways you can help it be a useful, not wasteful, part of their lives.
What is it?Can media help your kids get ready for school or improve school performance once they start? The answer is yes and no. Reading to your children from an early age helps them recognize word shapes and letters. Playing shape, color, and recognition games - on the computer or off, can help young kids learn basic concepts. Educational programs for 3-to-5 year olds like Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and Blues Clues, introduce literacy and math skills and model the positive social interactions your kids will need upon entering school. It's when they get a little bit older that media can become more of an interruption than a stimulus to learn.
Why it mattersStudies are showing that there is a correlation between increases in screen time and decreases in school readiness and performance. Your kids - if they're like kids everywhere - will spend more time in front of the TV and computer screen every year, not less. That's why it's really important to help younger kids learn from many different sources in preparation for entering school. As kids get older, research has shown that too much media time can have a harmful impact on kids' academic performance, leading to poor grades and low reading abilities. And media disrupts concentration a great deal, as kids are often texting and IM-ing when they do their homework. The result is they're often not giving it their full attention.
Parent tips for preschool kids
- Put the TV in a central location. Keep TVs out of kids' bedrooms.
- Choose media carefully. Stick to high-quality non-commercial educational media.
- Schedule equal time. Balance time in front of a screen with other playtime.
- Plan media-free family activities. Read books together, listen to music, walk, run, and play.
Parent tips for elementary school kids
- Limit daily screen time. That means gaming and the computer, too!
- Keep the computer in a central place. Keep an eye on time and Web destinations.
- See for yourself. Check out online gaming and social sites for yourself so you know what they're about.
- Choose wisely. Pick age-appropriate television and movies, and TV shows that are educational and fun.
- Keep kids reading. They'll need it!
Parent tips for middle school kids
- No multi-tasking during homework. Tthat means no listening to music, IM-ing, or texting at the same time.
- Reading is really important. Kids learn vocabulary best by reading, not with flashcards or online programs.
- Set time limits. Limit online and console gaming time to weekends if possible, and limit TV time.