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Behavior, Parenting and Discipline > How Screen Time Affects Learning

How Screen Time Affects Learning

While there is some research that some educational television programs can promote learning and literacy in children, there is also evidence that the content kids are exposed to matters. Shows that are age appropriate and encourage thought and interaction might be of benefit.

Despite advertising describing how babies can learn to read by watching certain DVDs or kids can learn to read with computer software, research shows that this is not an effective means of promoting language development, and might be detrimental. These "educational" DVDs and computer software have the following problems:
  • Operating a mouse while reading a story on the computer requires a higher level of skills than turning the pages in a book. Some children are not able to simultaneously operate the mouse and comprehend the story.
  • When parents and kids interact with electronic console books, parents are less likely to use the kind of verbal interactions that promote literacy. They tend to talk more about behavior ("can you click on this?") and less about responding to content ("what is the boy going to do next?")
  • When children read from electronic console books, they spend more time pushing buttons than reading the story, which results in poorer character identification, less story comprehension, and more impoverished parent-child interaction than reading from traditional books.
  • The amount of TV viewing before age 3 has been associated with problems in reading recognition, reading comprehension, and being able to remember sequences at age 6.
  • Children who spend less time watching TV in early years tend to do better in school, have a healthier diet, be more physically active, and be better able to engage in schoolwork in later elementary school.
  • Teens who watch 3 or more hours of TV daily are at especially high risk for poor homework completion, negative attitudes about school, poor grades, and academic failure.
  • Boys who spend more time playing video games spend less time on academics and have lower reading and writing scores.

What can you do?

  • Read, read, read! Good old fashioned books are great!
  • Have young kids tell you what they expect about a book from the pictures in it before you read it.
  • Ask "What's going to happen..." or "Why do you think that happened..." or similar questions while reading.
  • Have kids summarize what has been read.
  • Continue to read out loud to your kids even when they can read. Take turns reading!
  • Visit the library regularly.
  • Eat screen free meals together and talk.
  • Play games.
  • Tell stories.
  • Draw pictures and tell stories about them.
  • Encourage young children to tell you stories.
  • Read poems aloud.
Make up poems, songs, and stories.From the Screen Free Week 2011 Organizer's Kit

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