Evaluating Children's Media: How Do You Decide What's Educational?
By: Susan Friedman
Here’s a scenario that many of us have experienced. While I hustle to get ready to leave for the doctor’s office, my daughter plays an educational computer game. On the way there, I pass my smart phone to my daughter in the back of the car. In the waiting room the TV is on. But
it’s ok, because all the apps, TV shows and media are educational. Right?
As children spend more time using screen media, how do we know what our children are learning? A recent survey conducted by the Joanne Ganz Cooney Center, asked parents about how much their children learned from educational media. The resulting report, Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America offers a look into how families today use the various forms of screen media. A few highlights from the report:
- More than half of the parents surveyed (57%) believe their children have “learned a lot” from educational media
- The use of educational media drops at age four, just when screen time goes up
- Two to four year olds spend more time each day with educational media than any other age group
Upon the study’s release, a group of educators gathered to discuss the study. Among the topics discussed: tools parents can use to differentiate between what is educational media and what isn’t.
Here are some resources you can use to evalute media:
- Your local library: Children’s librarians are leaders in using new media with young children. They are up-to-date with recent e-books and apps and how to use these tools in ways that support children's learning.
- Common Sense Media: Provides information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can information to inform their choices about the media they consume.
- Children's Technology Review: A place to read reviews of children’s interactive media products written by educators with a focus on children's learning.
Technology and Young Children position statement: Although created for educators, families will find useful guidance in this joint position statement issued by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College.