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Tuesday 30 July 2019

Creating Safer Screen Time for Your Child #screentime

Brianna, © 2019
What's the earliest age when a child first sees a screen? It's younger than we might think! A study that was presented on April 25, 2015, at the Pediatric Academic Society annual conference in San Diego showed that children as young as six months are being exposed to mobile media. Also, by the age of one, at least one in seven children are using media devices for up to an hour daily.  As they get older, the number of hours in front of TV's, smart phones, tablets and computer screens rises.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time before the age of two. A child's brain develops during the first couple years, and they learn best by interacting with people, not screens. The recommendation is quite well known, but it's nearly impossible to strictly follow those guidelines, when babies are so drawn to smart phones, TV's and computer screens.

Can a child learn from a screen?

Yes. It's possible to learn from a television or iPad... it just takes twice as long as it would if the child was learning from another person in the real world.

Young children learn a lot from imitation. So one main way to see if a child is learning, is to see if they're able to imitate actions that they've seen. In the study "Transfer of learning between 2D and 3D sources during infancy: Informing theory and practice", Rachel Barr wanted to see what children remembered if they saw a two dimensional (2D) demonstration compared to a group who got no demonstration at all. She found that the kids who got a 2D demonstration did better than the control group. This indicates that infants can learn from books, TV and touchscreens.

The infants who saw a 2D demonstration imitated 50% fewer actions than the ones who got to see a live, 3D demonstration... something done by a real person right in front of them. This shows that while children can learn from 2D (screens and books), it is a lot easier to learn from a live demonstration. This is because it is difficult for kids to understand how the symbols that they see in books and on screens transfer to the real world.

So if you're going to let your children use screen time as a learning opportunity, it's a good idea to consider what researcher Lisa Guernsy refers to as the "3 X's": Content, Context and the Individual Child (Guernsy, 2012). Lets take a look at it closer.

There's evidence that the quality of a television program is associated with a better language outcome (Lerner and Barr, 2015). What happens on a show actually makes a difference in how much your child learns and takes away from watching it. If a show is hard to understand because the content is too difficult or fast paced, it can actually disrupt their ability to pay attention, problem solve and focus (Common Sense Media, 2013).

Many apps are television shows are created with education in mind. These programs often have a curriculum, and have been thoroughly researched.

Where can I quality content?

When I think of an educational program, the first thing that pops into my head is "Sesame Street".  This show has been on for many years, all the way back to when I was a child.

Some other favorites of mine for educational content:

Baby Einstein
Mother Goose
Super Simple Songs
Dave & Ava
PinkFong ... known for Baby Shark!
National Geographic Kids
Simple Kids Crafts

What's going on around your child while they're watching the screen matters. Just like we wouldn't expect a child to learn as much from looking at a book, as they would from interacting and reading it with an adult... the same thing goes for television. Kids will learn more from media when an adult is present and can support their learning (Lerner and Barr, 2015).

Ways to create an appropriate context for screen time:

1. Try to engage with your child while she's looking at a screen. Talk about what they're seeing and seems interested in.
2 Bring the information from the screen into the real world. Relate the information to your child's past experiences and knowledge. If your child saw someone flying in an airplane onscreen, remind them about the time they were at the airport, or when you traveled on one as a family, etc.
3. Have children share a tablet and work on an app together.

The Individual Child
There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to selecting media. Think about your child's age, skills, interests and abilities. It's important to set limits on their screen time. Though studies have shown that kids can learn from screen time, it's not necessary for learning. They learn more when they're able to explore the real world, interact with adults and their peers, especially during enjoyable activities. Make sure that screen time is limited, so that your child has time to engage with the world, rather than just the web.

Take Away
By setting limits, exposing them to appropriate content and putting yourself in the picture by engaging with our child about what they're looking at, you can help your child get the most out of their screen time.

Guernsy, L. (20120. Screen Time: How Electronic Media - From Baby Videos to Educational Software - Affects Your Young Child.

Barr, R. (2013). Memory constraints on infant learning from picture books, television, and touchscreens. Child Development Perspectives.

Barr, R. (2010). Transfer of learning between 2D and 4D sources during infancy: Informing theory and practice. Developmental Review.

Barr, R. & Lerner, C. (2015). Screen Sense - Setting the record straight: research based guidelines for screen use for children under 3 years old. Webinar.


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