Kids 8 to 18 spend an average of 1.5 hours a day using the computer for non-school activities, an increase of almost half an hour over five years ago.
A PBS Kids study found a 31% improvement in vocabulary in kids ages 3 to 7 who played with the app Martha Speaks.
A Computers for Youth program found that having a computer in the home had significant impact on math test scores of low-income middle-school students.
The single most important component of school readiness is reading.
Parents are under so much pressure to raise kids who do well in school. A stroll down the education aisle of any toy store shows just how much companies take advantage of this. Between the brain-building music, the electronic learning tools, and storybooks that read out loud, it's a wonder preschoolers still know how to play.
As kids get older, there are even more educational offerings to sift through -- TV shows, skill-building computer programs, subject-specific websites -- even mobile apps.
What really works? For starters, balance. Childhood development experts remain firm in their recommendation that the most important thing for young kids is interaction with a loving caregiver. And the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends limiting screen time. But new studies on the impact of technology on kids' school performance is very promising. When it comes to how ready they are for school and how well they’ll do when they get there, common sense is the rule.
Some media can help your kids get ready for school and improve school performance once they start. Reading to your children from an early age helps them recognize word shapes and letters. Playing shape, color, and recognition games -- on the computer or off -- can help young kids learn basic concepts. Educational TV shows for 3- to 5-year-olds -- like Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and Blue's Clues -- introduce literacy and math skills and model the positive social interactions that your kids will need upon entering school.
It’s when kids get a little bit older and start to rely more heavily on the entertainment offerings of the computer and TV that media can become more of an interruption than a stimulus to learn. But by keeping media activities truly educational, you may see performance gains. A Texas Technology Immersion pilot program showed that kids who received laptop computers with built-in online instructional resources (plus teacher support) improved in reading and math.
The Texas Technology program and others like it indicate that it's the quality of content that matters. (Check our reviews for media recommendations.) But too much media time can have a harmful impact on kids’ academic performance, leading to poor grades and low reading abilities. That’s why it’s really important to help kids learn from many different sources in preparation for entering school. As they get older, help them reduce media distractions -- like texting when they should be doing homework -- as multitasking disrupts concentration.
By using technology wisely -- choosing high-quality shows and computer programs and limiting overall screen time -- you can help your kids get more of the good stuff and less of the not-so-good stuff.