Rebecca Dore, The Ohio State UniversityAs families everywhere adjust to social distancing measures like closed schools and child care centers, workplaces and more, parents are grappling with questions regarding their kids’ use of technology. Rebecca Dore, an expert on children and media, offers some tips for how to make the most of screen time for kids who are cooped up at home.
Although adults often use media as a babysitter, young children get more out of it when they use it with an adult. Grownups, after all, can help them understand what’s going on and make connections to the real world. One study found that when 3-year-olds watched a “Dora the Explorer” episode, 75% of them thought the Spanish words in the show weren’t real or said they weren’t sure if they were real.
Not surprisingly, those children were less likely to learn from the show.
Parents can help by watching with children, talking to them about what they are seeing and linking it to their everyday lives. For example, a mom or dad can observe that “Dora speaks Spanish, like your friend Mateo from school.”
Making the time and effort to do this is always easier said than done – especially when kids are home from school and need to be entertained around the clock while their parents are nearby teleworking. But even when you feel like you have no time or energy to watch, listen or play together, there are some ways you can fit some of what experts call “joint media engagement” into a busy schedule.
Have your 4-year-old listen to an e-book at the kitchen table while you’re making dinner. You can pay attention and then talk about it afterwards with your child. Or listen to an age-appropriate podcast together while you’re folding laundry instead of setting your child up with a TV show in the other room.