Mediating media

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics explores parental monitoring of children’s media use. It examines its effects on physical, social, and academic outcomes, and the links between monitoring children’s media use and a wide range of these outcomes.

A total of 1,323 children aged 8-11 from ten schools in Iowa and Minnesota were recruited to participate. The authors collected data at the beginning and end of one school year from home and school surveys, and from a primary caregiver and teacher for each child. Measures included health (height, weight, BMI), as well as demographics, parental monitoring of media, total screen time, media violence exposure, school performance, and well-being.

The study revealed that increased parental monitoring was correlated with a reduction in children’s total screen time, which in turn resulted in more sleep. More monitoring was also correlated with improved school performance, increased pro-social behaviour, and lower aggressive behaviour.

Exposure to media violence predicted lower pro-social behaviour and higher aggressive behaviour. Increased parental monitoring was correlated with less exposure to media violence, which in turn was correlated with increased pro-social behaviour and decreased aggressive behaviour. The researchers controlled for parental education, marital status, child gender, and minority status.

Although the American Association of Pediatrics makes a number of general recommendations on total screen time, the authors suggest it may be useful for parents to know that there are four types of parental monitoring: co-viewing with the child; restricting amount of time; restricting the types of content; and actively discussing the meaning and effects of media content with children (active mediation).

Source: Protective Effects of Parental Monitoring of Children’s Media Use: A Prospective Study (2014), JAMA Pediatrics, 168(5).

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.

Education Media Centre starts work

The launch of the PISA survey also marked the start of a new initiative in the UK – the Education Media Centre (EMC).

The EMC aims to improve the public and media understanding of education research and evidence. It does this by making it easy for the media to access useful academic and research expertise on the education stories they are covering in newspapers, on radio, TV, and the internet.

The ultimate goal is to raise awareness and knowledge of this research amongst the public. The EMC is a project of the Coalition for Evidence-based Education, an alliance of researchers, policy makers and practitioners who are interested in improving the way research evidence is used, and exchanged, across the sector.

Social class matters

A new study has looked at the relationship between social class and achievement in the early years of schooling. Researchers used data from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study to examine the extent to which social class inequalities in early cognitive scores can be accounted for by parental education, income, family social resources, and parental behaviours.

They found that the links between social class and education on the one hand, and children’s test scores on the other, were only very modestly mediated by family social resources and parenting. The researchers conclude that social class remains an important concept for both researchers and policy makers.

The study found that parents’ educational qualifications were the strongest predictors of children’s scores. It also found that authoritative parenting and, surprisingly, TV viewing, had positive effects.

Source: Social Class and Inequalities in Early Cognitive Scores (2013), Sociology.

The Sesame Street effect

“Count von Count, Sesame Street’s friendly mathematical vampire, is obsessed with a new number: 0.29”, says Dr Charlotte Cole, Senior Vice President of Global Education at Sesame Workshop. She was responding to a new article in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology which found that the impact of Sesame Street is significant and positive, with an effect size of 0.292.

The authors conducted a meta-analysis examining the effects of children’s exposure to international co-productions of Sesame Street, synthesising the results of 24 studies, conducted with over 10,000 children in 15 countries. The results indicated significant positive effects of watching the programme, aggregated across learning outcomes, and within three outcome categories: cognitive outcomes, including literacy and numeracy; learning about the world, including health and safety knowledge; and social reasoning and respect for others.

Source: Effects of Sesame Street: A Meta-analysis of Children’s Learning in 15 Countries (2013), Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34(3).

Pupil awareness of the costs and benefits of university

A Centre for the Economics of Education Discussion Paper looks at what impact an information campaign and media reporting on university tuition fees had on pupils’ understanding of the costs and benefits of university.

Participating Year 10 pupils completed a survey about the cost and benefits of higher education, followed by a similar survey eight to 12 weeks later. In between the two surveys treatment schools were given information packages about the costs and benefits of staying in education. Control schools were given this after the second survey. At the time of the study the increase in tuition fees was announced, so the researchers also measured the impact of media reporting on both groups.

Their analysis showed that pupils had significant gaps in their basic knowledge of the costs and benefits of going to university, which was influenced by both the information campaign and media reporting. The change to fees, and specifically media reporting of it, increased the perception of going to university as “too expensive” – especially among lower income groups. However, it also showed that a relatively inexpensive and properly directed information campaign can help to mitigate this effect.

Source: Student awareness of costs and benefits of educational decisions: Effects of an information campaign (2012), Centre for the Economics of Education