Toddlers turn from TV to tech

Toddlers are using technology but turning away from TV, according to a national survey. Thirty-eight percent of children under age 2 have used a mobile device, up from 11 percent two years ago, according to Common Sense Media, reports the San Jose Mercury News. At the same, young children are spending less time watching TV.

Three-quarters of children ages 0 to 8 have access to mobile devices such as smart phones, tablet computers and iPod Touches, the survey found. The proportion of young children using the devices nearly doubled, from 38 percent two years ago to 72 percent, and average duration of use tripled from 5 minutes to 15 minutes daily.

Children up to age 8 average nearly two hours a day in front of video screens. That’s 21 minutes less than they did two years ago, according to Common Sense Media.

Half, or 57 minutes, of screen time is spent watching TV, a drop of 9 minutes a day from two years ago. Of TV time, one-third is spent watching prerecorded programs on a DVR. Ten minutes a day is spent playing video games, down by 4 minutes from two years ago.

Children are more likely to watch educational programs on TV than on smart phones, the survey found.

A third of children have televisions in their bedrooms. Lower-income families were more likely to have a TV on all the time compared to than higher-income and better-educated families.

Where there is still a gap between the rich and poor in ownership of mobile devices, it is narrowing. Among poor families — those earning less than $30,000 a year — access to smart phones increased from 27 percent to 51 percent in two years, while tablet ownership went from 2 percent to 20 percent.

Yet Common Sense pointed out an “app gap,” partly because only 46 percent of lower-income families have access to high-speed Internet, and therefore have less access to downloadable educational programs.

There’s also a huge reading gap. About half of parents said they read to their children under 2 ever day; a quarter read every week. One fifth never read to their children under 2.

The 10 best TV shows for young kids

It’s OK for preschoolers to watch an hour a day of high-quality television, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. But what’s high quality? Mike Petrilli lists The 10 Best Television Shows for Young Children.

Best Television Shows for Two- and Three-Year-Olds

1.   Kipper (available on Sprout and Netflix)
2.   Wonder Pets! (available on Nick Jr. and Netflix)
3.   Blue’s Clues (available on Nick Jr. and Netflix)
4.   Doc McStuffins (available on Disney Junior)
5.   Curious George (available on PBS Kids and Netflix)

Best Television Shows for Four- and Five-Year-Olds

1.   Backyardigans (availalbe on Nick Jr. and Netflix)
2.   Wild Kratts (available on PBS Kids)
3.   Dinosaur Train (available on PBS Kids and Netflix)
4.   Arthur (available on PBS Kids and Netflix)
5.   Super Why! (available on PBS Kids and Netflix)

Sesame Street isn’t what it used to be, writes Petrilli.

Study: TV can teach empathy to preschoolers

When 3- to 5-year-olds watch less violence on TV and more shows featuring cooperation and friendship, they’re less aggressive toward other children, concludes a study published in Pediatrics.

One group of parents received guides highlighting positive TV shows for children and newsletters encouraging them to watch with their kids and discuss  the best ways to deal with conflict. Researchers called monthly to help parents set television-watching goals for their preschoolers.

The control group got dietary advice, but no guidance on TV watching.

After six months, parents in the group receiving advice about television-watching said their children were somewhat less aggressive with others, compared with those in the control group. The children who watched less violent shows also scored higher on measures of social competence, a difference that persisted after one year.

Low-income boys showed the most improvement.

“It’s not just about turning off the TV; it’s about changing the channel,” said Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, the lead author of the study and a University of Washington pediatrics professor.

Preschoolers average 4.1 hours of television and other screen time daily, according to a 2011 study.

“Law enforcement sources” believe Adam Lanza was motivated to kill Newtown’s children by “violent video games“and his desire to outkill Andres Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, reports CBS.  “Call of Duty” was his favorite.

Young people read more? Not really

Young people (age 16 to 29) read and use libraries more than older people, according to a Pew survey.  Millenials are “a rising generation of book lovers,” proclaimed the Christian Science Monitor.

Hold the hallelujahs, advises Dan Willingham. Young people are said to be reading “a lot,” but Pew set a low bar: 83 percent read a book in the previous year. One book per year. Of course, young people spend a lot of time reading texts, Tweets and Facebook updates, but it’s not quite the same thing.

Americans spend much more time watching television each day than they do reading. This chart  by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows how Americans of all ages use their leisure time.

Picture

It doesn’t change much for younger folks, Willingham writes. They read more for school work than their elders, but are somewhat less likely to read for pleasure or to keep up with current events.

How to be an education parent

We want parents to support kids’ learning, but what do we want them to do specifically? asks Bill Jackson of Great Schools in an e-mail discussion. He envisions a campaign of public service announcements tied to a GreatKids mobile app:

1. Read to your child for 30 minutes a day.
2. Have conversations with your child every day. Use questions, not commands.
3. Teach your child the alphabet before kindergarten.
4. Teach your child to count to 20.
5. Limit TV time to 30 minutes a day.

An iPad app could let parents “give their kids a quick test to see how they are doing in acquiring vocabulary,” Jackson adds. “The idea here is to  . .  make it a ‘club’ of parents doing the right things and getting positive feedback.”

I think some parents need to be shown how to read a book with a child and how to have a conversation.

Guest-blogging for Rick Hess, Jackson asks parents to list their aspirations for their children at age 18. “When you launch them at age 18, what knowledge, skills, character traits, and other qualities do you want them to have?” His list for his daughters:

1. Be passionate about some activities or commitments
2. Love to read; read for pleasure
3. Know a lot about the world (for their age) and want to know more
4. Have strong analytical and mathematical skills
5. Know a lot (for their age) about at least one area of science (biology, physics, etc)
6. Write well
7. Have skills in at least one visual, fine or performing art discipline (piano, theater, etc.)
8. Have at least one manual skill (sewing, cooking, fixing car, etc.)
9. Have at least basic computer programming skills
10. Be able to draw reasonably well
11. Have friends (fewer closer or more less close both OK)
12. Be active in serving people in need and/or advocating for ideas larger than themselves
13. Be kind to everyone they interact with
14. Have demonstrated resiliency through failure
15. Be physically active
16. Be optimistic

Whether a particular school is good for a child depends on the parent’s aspirations, Jackson writes.

My expectations for my daughter’s schools were modest. I wanted school to teach her reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, history and science — especially math and science, which I wasn’t teaching at home. I didn’t expect her to be skilled in a performing art or in drawing — and I was right. (She took  a programming class in college, but I don’t think it’s a critical skill.) Kindness, friendliness, resiliency, problem solving, cooking . . . Kids learn that at home or not at all.

Touchscreen toddlers

Interactive screen time can be educational for toddlers, writes Lisa Guernsey in Slate.  But . . .

Seventy-two percent of iTunes’ top-selling “education” apps are designed for preschoolers and elementary school children, according to a recent report.  Yet we don’t have much research on interactive apps for preschoolers.

A 2010 Georgetown study found children 30 to 36 months old were better at remembering where puppets were hiding if they had to touch a space bar to spot the puppets (or saw a live puppet show), compared to toddlers who watched a video of the puppet show.

In earlier studies, slightly younger children—24 months—struggled with these “seek and find” tasks after watching non-interactive video, unless they had a guide on-screen, a person or character, whom they felt compelled to respond to or communicate with. Even easier tasks, such as pointing to an object introduced a few minutes before, are more difficult for very young children after watching video compared with being taught face-to-face. It is this “video deficit,” which has cropped up in numerous other studies with infants and toddlers, that partially informed the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation against screen time among children younger than 2. (The AAP has other concerns, too, such as whether parents are replacing human-to-human connections with screen time.)

The pediatricians were focused on “passive” media, such as TV and videos, not interactive media, Guernsey notes.

Still, interactive may be more distracting than educational, Guernsey warns.

. . . the wow factor of the device and the presence of interactive “hotspots” on e-book pages may interfere with children’s ability to recall the story line of the book. This isn’t just a problem of electronics. Even traditional print-and-cardboard pop-up books can lead children at 2½ and 3 years old to learn less from the story than they would have otherwise, according to research at the University of Virginia conducted by Cynthia Chiong.

Most education apps now on the market dictate how children will play, Guernsey writes. Instead of exploring, kids must follow the program. However, new products are being introduced that encourage creativity, such as “DoodleCastItzaBitza and in-development computer programming software for preschoolers called Scratch Jr.

This is off-topic, but fun:

Start school later for more learning

Middle schoolers do better when school starts — and ends — later, according to a North Carolina study by economist Finley Edwards described in Education Next.

. . . delaying school start times by one hour, from roughly 7:30 to 8:30, increases standardized test scores by at least 2 percentile points in math and 1 percentile point in reading.

Starting early has the most effect on older middle schoolers, supporting the theory that hormonal changes make it hard for adolescents to get to sleep in the early evening, Edwards writes. Students get more sleep and have fewer absences. But late starts have other advantages:  With less unsupervised time after school, latebirds spend more time on homework and watch less TV.

“The effect of a later start time in both math and reading is more than twice as large for students in the bottom third of the test-score distribution than for students in the top third,” Edwards found.

Start times had no effect on elementary students, the study found, but elementary schools start later than middle schools, so that could obscure the effect.

Districts could swap elementary and secondary school start times to improve achievement without spending more on busing, Edwards suggests. Or districts could invest in more buses to start all schools at 8:30 or later. The achievement gain would be similar to the effect of cutting class sizes at a fraction of the cost.

This is your child’s brain on TV

This is Your Child's Brain on Television
Via: Online Courses News

Closing the parenting gap

We’ll never narrow the achievement gap significantly unless we narrow the “good parenting gap” separating affluent and low-income families, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

(I think the gap is about parental education, not income.) But back to Petrilli.

Let’s admit it: The Broader/Bolder types are right when they say that a LOT of what influences student achievement happens outside of schools, and before kids ever set foot in Kindergarten. Where they are wrong, I believe, is in thinking that turbo-charged government programs can compensate for the real challenge: what’s happening (or not) inside the home..

Parents can increase their children’s chances of doing well in school by not having children till the papers have graduated from high school and married. (I once saw a study saying that 90 percent of children born to an unmarried, teen-age high school drop-out live in poverty compared to 9 percent of children born to married, high school graduates who waited till 20 to have their first child.) Petrilli adds: talking and singing to the baby, firm but loving discipline, limits on TV, trips to parks, museums and nature centers and “ready, baby, read.”

. . . out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates and divorce rates have reached catastrophic levels for the poor and the working class–but not for the most affluent and well-educated among us.

. . . You don’t have to be Richy Rich to nurse your baby, or sing to her, or learn how to be loving but firm. Sure, a few of these items are easier with money. (I imagine that low income families use TV as a babysitter more because they can’t afford alternative childcare.) But mostly these take commitment, discipline, and practice.

Petrilli doesn’t know how to promote marriage before babies, but he’d like to try.

Single parenting can be a rational choice in some neighborhoods, responds Dana Goldstein. She lives in New York City, where only one of every four young black men has a job.

. . .  as sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas demonstrate in one of my favorite booksPromises I Can Keep, low-income women often prefer to remain unmarried because the men in their lives–men facing chronic unemployment in the legitimate economy, or who may be addicted or engaged in criminal behaivior–simply do not make stable husbands or fathers.

If I worked for a foundation, I’d hire smart people to design a TV show to model good parenting — and marriage — to viewers who haven’t grown up with that. It would have to be entertaining, so people would watch it voluntarily.

Kids add digital media to TV time

From birth through age eight, children are spending more time with digital media such as computers, video games, cell phones and video iPods, concludes a study by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco nonprofit. However, most screen time still is devoted to watching TV.

Half of children from babies to 8-year-olds have access to a smart phone, video iPod, iPad or other tablet device. Some 47 percent of higher-income parents have downloaded apps for their children, compared to 14 percent of lower-income children, leading to warnings of an “app gap.”

Half of low-income families with young children have a computer at home compared to 91 percent of higher-income families.

Computer use is pervasive among very young children, with half (53%) of all 2- to 4-year- olds having ever used a computer, and nine out of ten (90%) 5- to 8-year-olds having done so. . . . Among all children who have used a computer, the average age at first use was just 3 ½ years old.

However, TV is still king of the toddlers’ jungle. In a typical day, nearly half of babies and toddlers watch TV or DVDs for an average of nearly two hours. For all children in their first year, the average is 53 minutes of TV time versus 23 minutes being read to.

Two-thirds (65%) of 0- to 8-year-olds watch TV at least once every day (ranging from 37% of 0-1 year- olds, to 73% of 2- to 4-year-olds and 72% of 5- to 8-year-olds). Forty-two percent have a TV in their bedroom, and 39% live in a home where the TV is left on all (10%) or most (29%) of the time, whether anyone is watching it or not. Children this age spend an average of 1:44 watching TV or videos in a typical day, compared to :29 reading, :29 listening to music, and :25 playing computer or video games.

Black and Hispanic children and lower-income children spend much more time with media than whites and children with educated parents. Sixty-four percent of low-income children have a TV in their bedroom, compared to 20 percent of children in affluent homes.

Smart phones and iPads are becoming baby toys, notes the New York Times.

Jeannie Crowley, who helps faculty members at the Bank Street College of Education integrate technology into teaching, got rid of television at home because of the ads and branding.

But Ms. Crowley hands her iPad over to her 19-month-old daughter, Maggie, to play with the Smule piano app. And at bedtime, the family often watches “30 Rock” on the computer, Maggie dancing to the opening music. The toddler also loves YouTube videos of barking dogs.

And she is also adept with her mother’s smartphone.

“She learned how to unlock it, observationally, about two months ago.” Ms Crowley said. “About two weeks ago, she was on the train with me, and she popped the slide bar.”

. . . Most of all, Maggie likes to watch the cellphone videos her parents take of her stomping on leaves, getting sticky sap on her hands or wearing her new pink polka dot pajamas.

My step-granddaughter, two-year-old Julia learned to access the ring tones on my old cell phone. She presses a button, the tune plays, we dance.