Electronic media: magic or madness?

16 Sep

I’m teaching EDUC 1000 Careers in Education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College right now, and last night the topic on the syllabus was 21st century learners and the media. We watched two videos on Youtube.  

One video talks about the importance of engaging kids using electronic media for the purpose of education. Kids are growing up with almost unbelievably more media knowledge and understanding than their parents did. The way that technology in the last ten years has changed the world can only be compared to the invention of movable type, the industrial revolution, and the protestant reformation.

The other video talks about how the brain develops and the power of media to influence the brain. Connections that wire together fire together, and if kids are getting a lot of screen time and not much face time, it significantly affects the neural pathways that get formed and reinforced. There is growing research linking childhood screen time to ADHD and obesity.

Recently I’ve been learning about how using computer technology in learning can help visual spatial learners, especially boys, increase their academic performance and learning effectiveness. The National Center on Media and the Family recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day. If a children is use technology in school, have a little computer or video-game time at home, and watch a T.V. show with Mom or Dad after their homework is done, they will almost certainly exceed that. And what if their homework also requires time on the computer?

I think there is certainly a difference between active screen time and passive screen time. Active screen time could include interacting with others on social media and doing research for school. Passive screen would be sitting and watching T.V. Video games are a different category, because the fast, high impact images and quick reactions required to play video games are very overstimulating to the brain and release stress-related chemicals like cortisol when they are played. I say that I THINK there’s a difference because I’ve not seen any research done on active vs passive media.

So what’s a person to do about their kids and screen time? Here are my thoughts in a nutshell:

  1. Most importantly, be present and engaged with your kids during screen time. Know what they’re doing and watching. Let them know what you’re doing and watching (with appropriate boundaries). Talk to them about what’s on the screen, and teach them to be smart and critical thinkers about what they see and do.
  2. Make sure there’s a balance of screen time, active play time, outdoor time, and face time with you. It won’t always be equal, but if we’re mindful of it, we can use our best judgment to manage it.
  3. Do family activities like playing games, telling stories, reading books, playing sports and getting out into nature. This helps kids learn to find enjoyment in non-screen activities.

My best advice is: Use media; don’t let it use you, and teach your kids to do the same.

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Posted by on September 16, 2010 in Present Moment Parenting


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