Powering up educational media at home

This report from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop presents findings from a study on families’ educational media use. Data was collected through a national survey of more than 1,500 parents of children aged 2-10. The survey covered children’s home use of television, DVDs, video games, tablets, and other electronic devices, and investigated how much of the media content was considered educational (media use for homework or other school assignments was excluded). Some key findings of the study were:

  • 54% of respondents said their child “often” takes specific actions as a result of their exposure to educational media, such as talking about something they saw (38%), engaging in imaginative play based on it (34%), asking questions about it (26%), or asking to do a project or activity inspired by it (18%).
  • As children get older, the amount of time they spend with screen media goes up (from 1 hour and 37 minutes to 2 hours and 36 minutes a day), and the proportion that is considered educational goes down (from 78% to 27%).
  • Parents do not believe their children learn as much from educational media about science as they do about other subject areas.

The authors emphasise that no parent’s estimate of their child’s media use is likely to be exact. However, they say that when dealing with children aged 10 and under, time and frequency estimates from parents are more likely to be reliable than those obtained from the child.

Source: Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America (2014), The Joan Ganz Cooney Center.

Schools and parents influence well-being

A new report commissioned by the Department of Health has sought to identify factors that predict well-being throughout people’s lives. Data about well-being in early childhood was taken from questions asked to seven-year-olds as part of the Millennium Cohort Study. Findings include that children tend to have higher levels of well-being when they have good social relationships with family and friends, do things that they find enjoyable, experience moderation in activities that are potentially harmful to health, and have parents who do not shout or smack them. The authors suggest that this supports the current emphasis on extending the reach of parenting programmes and anti-bullying initiatives. Schools may also have a role to play in promoting positive health behaviours.

Information on teenagers was taken from the “Understanding Society” annual longitudinal survey. The findings suggest that subjective well-being declines steeply with age at this stage of life, with only 8% of 15-year-olds having high well-being compared to 24% of 11-year-olds. Substance use and excessive computer gaming become more common, and both are associated with lower levels of well-being. As with younger children, social relations are influential. A secure environment at school – free from bullying and classroom disruption – was linked to well-being in teenagers, as was feeling supported at home and sharing family meals. The report does not imply causation. For example, it is not possible to tell whether adolescents with low well-being play computer games, or whether playing computer games results in low well-being.

Source: Predicting Wellbeing (2013), NatCen Social Research.