child raising hand in front of laptop elearningMany of today’s classrooms and learning tools have changed dramatically, from chalkboards and paper to Smart Boards and tablets. As with all areas of education it is important to understand the relationship between children’s media use and their learning. While advancements in educational technologies can strengthen a child’s understanding, some media can be used in ways that distract or prevent children from learning. Research has shown that how much time children spend with technology and what they spend that time doing, can affect the way they learn and perform in academic settings both at home and in school.

How can media affect a child’s education and learning?

While many schools, teachers, and parents are quick to embrace new educational technologies and implement media in classroom learning, ongoing research is needed to better understand both the risks and benefits of these new learning tools. Currently, the link between children’s media use and learning is largely due to the following:

  • Research shows that children who multitask with media (using multiple devices or multiple programs) take longer to complete their work than those who focus on a single task, and that the quality of their work declines.
  • Virtual game-based learning can provide children with an effective and engaging way to learn new material in a variety of contexts and promote positive interactions.
  • Studies have shown that children who watch educational TV learn more in the short term and perform better in school later on compared to children who do not. Research also shows that watching educational TV may help children with their ability to reason, perform tasks, plan, and problem solve.
  • Mobile Learning offers a variety of applications (apps) that can nurture children’s interests. Research shows that children can learn from apps when they are developmentally appropriate and related to what they are learning at home and at school.
  • Online learning can help create a traditional learning environment for children who may lack access to one, and studies show that online learning can help increase parents’ involvement with their child’s education.

What YOU Can Do

Although the relationship between media and education is complex, studies have shown that media content and parental engagement matter. Engaging in your child’s media activities, at home or at school, can help them better understand lessons and the world around them. In addition, educational technology can promote a child’s healthy development and increase their motivation to learn.  Here are several suggestions to help you assess and guide your child’s educational media use:

Do Your Homework

Engage in your children’s education and familiarize yourself with the media they are using in the classroom. Communicate with their teachers and stay current with any new technology that is introduced. This way you can support their learning at home and be available to help them if they should need it. Studies have shown that parental support of a child’s education has been linked to a child’s positive attitude toward learning.

Practice Media Literacy

In today’s often media saturated environment, teaching children to think critically about media is important. Stay current with the technology that is introduced to your children and discuss when and how to use technology to best complete work. This will help them understand that media are tools and should be used to complete specific tasks and then turned off in order to move on to other activities.

Be a Media Role Model

Parents should model for their children the behaviors they would like to encourage. Be aware of the media you are engaging in, especially when your child is present. Children often try and imitate their parents so it is important to be mindful of how and how often you use media. Also, media should not interfere with quality time between you and your child. Media can be educational and fun, but it cannot replace the learning that takes place through direct parent and child interaction.

Remove Screens from Children’s Bedrooms

Keep TVs, computers and video game systems out of children’s bedrooms, and make sure that all other internet connected devices such as tablets and smartphones are left in a common room or your bedroom to charge overnight. By keeping these electronics in a common area, parents can monitor their use much more easily and be aware of how much media their children are using and if the content is developmentally appropriate.

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