How does educational media impact children?

Educational “screen media” time, while considered beneficial by parents, drops sharply after age 4

educational-mediaWhile 78 percent of screen media consumed by children ages 2-4 is educational, that figure drops drastically as children age, down to 39 percent among 5- to 7-year-olds and 27 percent in children ages 8-10, according to a national survey released on Jan. 24.

Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America” analyzes parents’ experiences and opinions of the educational media their children use. The survey aims to identify the subjects parents think their children learned most about from educational media, what platforms they think are most effective, and what are some obstacles to more widespread use of educational media.

Lower pricepoints have enabled lower-income and minority families to increase device ownership and “catch up” to their middle-class and white peers, notes Victoria Rideout, the report’s author.

But also the access gap is smaller, “there is evidence of an emerging ‘participation gap’ demarcating more and less enriching users of media. Studies have shown that children who use educational media learn more in the short term and do better in school later on compared to children who do not. Research has also demonstrated that using educational media with adult guidance leads to greater learning than if used alone.”

(Next page: How parents view educational media’s benefits)

The survey defines educational media as “content that is good for your child’s learning or growth, or that teaches some type of lesson, such as an academic or social skill.” It does not, however evaluate or certify the effectiveness or quality of the educational media children use.

Forty-four percent of the screen media that 2- to 10-year-olds consume is deemed educational by parents. Eight out of 10 children use educational media at least once a week and one-third of those children are daily users.

Most parents reported believing that their children have learned or benefited from educational media. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said their child has learned “a lot” about at least one specific subject area, such as math or reading, and 54 percent said their child “often” takes specific action as a result of that educational media, including talking about something they say (38 percent) or asking questions about it (26 percent).

The survey also revealed that young children, those ages 2-4, seem to use educational media the most–1:16 a day, dropping to :50 among 5- to 7-year-olds and :42 per day among children ages 8-10. Interestingly, children’s screen media consumption increases as they get older, from 1:37 to 2:36 per day, while the proportion of educational content consumed decreases, from 78 percent to 27 percent.

Television remains the most-consumed screen media, and children spend an average of :42 per day consuming educational TV than they do consuming educational content on other platforms such as mobile devices or computers.

Parents indicated that, when it comes to learning from educational media, they do not think their children learn as much about science as they do about other subjects. Just 19 percent of parents said their child has learned “a lot” about science, while 37 percent of parents said the same of reading and cognitive skills. Twenty-eight percent said the same of math.

Hispanic-Latino parents, across all platform areas and in almost all subjects, are the least likely to indicate that their child has learned or benefited from educational media. Sixty-three percent said their child has learned “a lot” or “some” about math from computers, compared to 91 percent of black parents and 79 percent of white parents.

Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of children have access to eReaders, but only 49 percent of those with access to a device have read or have been read to on it. Children spend an average of :05 a day with eBooks, compared to :29 per day with printed books.

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Laura Ascione

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