Learning Chinese: Screen Time and Educational Apps for Kids
    Date of publication :10/15/2018 5:59:54 AM

Internet has changed the landscape of learning. It’s availability at school, at home and anywhere makes life-long and self-learning accessible and easy to everybody. However, it’s pros and cons also heat up debate among early education experts, teachers and parents. To prepare our kids for working and living in a digital age, discussion here is helpful for parents who want to guide their kids correctly use digital tools for self-led learning, problem solving, home learning and collaboration.

Babies and toddlers love playing with smartphones and tablets, and quickly get the hang of them. When you're a busy parent, it’s an easy way to keep your baby or young child entertained while you cook the dinner, drive, or do shopping. You may also feel it's important for your child to get a head start on learning digital skills. 

But many experts worry that too much screen time may be harmful for babies and children at a very young age. Doctors are concerned about how screen use affects children's rapidly developing brains and health. Doctors say that over-exposure has an impact on attention span and concentration, as well as appetite control. Screen time encourages a more sedentary lifestyle. Babies should be encouraged to explore the world physically and toddlers need to be active for three hours a day to grow healthily. 

We've rounded up some discussion to help parents make the best decisions.

How much screen time should my child have?

Common advice for the under-twos is to allow no screen time at all. If you decide to let your baby or toddler play with electric device, try keeping it to 15 or 20 minutes. For older children, doctors suggest a limit of one or two hours of total screen time including using TV, DVDs and computers as well as mobile devices. This is also a common recommendation in countries like the US, Canada and Australia. For example, the America Academy of Pediatrics 2013 Guideline suggests that children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day, and shouldn't have TVs or Internet access in their bedrooms.

Parents should help their child to see digital media as one of many possible activities and be aware of how much screen time parents themselves engage in at home. There is an inter-link between how much TV time parent spend and how much their child watches. So as parents, try to lead by example. And there’s wide expert agreement that TV, computers and games should not be switched on during mealtimes. Mealtimes are an important chance for families to build good eating habits and develop family bounding. Watching TV while feeding your baby or child can mean that you miss the cues whether she has had enough food. Your child may be distracted and not notice when she feels full. It is important to be responsive to your baby when feeding them and screen time is definitely not recommended.


Are educational apps helpful?

Currently, most of the research on electronic media and education was about TV programs, with few additional studies on computers and video games. Based on what we already know, educational apps’ impact on children’s cognitive development depends a lot on the child’s age. For the under-twos, there is limited evidence of benefits, such as increasing the quantity of vocabulary and image recognition. But other studies suggest that the under-twos do not learn much from electronic media. They argue that using screens might hold back the development of language and thinking skills. Most of studies show that, as a child getting older, she'll have an increasing ability of learning from electronic media. Several studies have found that some apps are helpful on building vocabulary and literacy skills. Parents should look for apps with features such like age proper for kids, stimulating positive emotion, providing an achievable goals, or parents’ participation friendly, etc.. However, at young age, parents’ involvement is really important. Kids will probably learn a lot more if parents spend time playing on apps with them.  


How do e-readers compare to traditional books?

For reluctant readers, e-books may be a best way to raise their interest and catch their attention. Young children may enjoy sharing e-books interactive features at school or nursery with their friends, therefor develop their collaboration skills. Lots of stimulating, interactive features can have both positive and negative impacts. For example, some audio e-books read the story to children. This limits parents’ interaction with kids and possibly shuts parents out of the interactive exchange. Interestingly, in one study, parents with tablets at home still prefer traditional books over e-books for their young children.


How can I make the most out of technology?

Digital media is part of unavoidable daily life, and your child is likely to be very adept at using it from a young age. As a parent, you can guide your child by setting rules and expectations early on. Smartphones and tablets are just one part of the media mix that children encounter every day, so it makes sense to take positive initiatives.

In simple words, several steps could help keeping screen usage under check:

Ø Limit your toddler's exposure to screen devices as much as possible;

Ø Keep TV, computer, mobile devices, and game consoles out of your child's bedroom;

Ø Don't let your child be on a screen for more than two hours a day in total. Help your child to monitor her screen use so that she can develop an awareness of time spent. That way she'll learn to manage screen time as she grows.

Ø Choose proper digital programs that have an educational elements, collaboration features, parents’ participation. 

It’s crystal clear that screen usage will be a normal part of life for most children and teenagers at digital age. Quality time your child spends on watching TV, using computers, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones can be part of a healthy lifestyle. By choosing high-quality digital materials, screen usage will help develop lifelong and self- learning capability. 

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