Making screen time count: a new book gives parents guidance

Even reading teachers know that children can learn reading-related skills through shows and videos, not only through book reading. But reading with an adult sets up opportunities for building reading skills in ways that putting a child in front of a screen often doesn’t.

In other words, when you are sitting and reading to children, there are obvious and easy chances for conversations that get kids empathizing with characters and seeing different perspectives, learning vocabulary words and new concepts, and thinking critically. But if young children are alone and passively watching the kind of programs that are merely entertainment, the show-watching experience is not valuable for building the critical skills they need for the years ahead.

Making screen time count

So if your family allows a bit of screen time for young children, how can you make sure the time is well spent?

A recent short piece** titled, Getting More Out of Screen Time, is a good place to start in the search for answers. The article is a review of a new book, Preschool Clues, by the creator of some of the most popular educational television shows for children, Angela Santomero.  The piece includes some of the book’s suggestions for how parents of preschoolers can use screen time to build reading-related skills.

Santomero’s work, beginning with Blues Clues and including Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, uses a research-backed approach based on the “importance of “interactivity” – getting children involved in their own learning by thinking, pointing, and participating in the content of the show” (see Forbes article link above). With a background in child development and instructional technology & media, she recommends parents choose only high-quality programs, and then use the screen time in ways that increase the kinds of skills that set children up to learn and grow. (Those familiar with Abound will see the overlap between what Santomero’s shows teach and the three buckets of skills that promote strong reading.)

So if you have your kids settled in front of a television on occasion, don’t feel guilty – just find out how to make sure that screen time builds the skills your child needs by checking out the new book or the short article from the NYT.

**Note that the article on screen time is the 5th article down on the link to the New York Times Bulletin Board page.

Interested in what experts recommend regarding screen time for young children? Read these Media tips from The American Academy of Pediatrics:

Limit digital media for your youngest family members. Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. For children 18 to 24 months, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you. Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day of high-quality programming. Again co-viewing is best when possible, and young children learn best when they are re-taught in the real world what they just learned through a screen. 

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