Webinar Spotlight: What We Know About Families’ Use of Educational Media

April 17, 2014
Kelly Mendoza Director of Professional Development
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES Professional Development

If you’re a parent or you work with parents, you know there's enormous interest in the potential of media to help kids learn. But what are parents’ experiences with their kids' use of educational media? This is what we explore in our latest edWeb webinar, “What We Know About Families’ Use of Educational Media.”

The webinar was co-presented by Michael Levine, founding director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, and Vicky Rideout, president of VJR Consulting and lead researcher for several Common Sense studies. Levine and Rideout shared the findings of the Cooney Center’s study, Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America, a report from a national survey of more than 1500 parents of children ages 2-10.

Levine framed the presentation by noting trends in the changing ecology of families: Families of all income levels are feeling stressed, kids are in multiple settings each day (childcare, school, and extracurricular activities), and families are experiencing media overload and media multitasking. From the Cooney Center's focus on the educational potential of media, the study examines parents’ reports of which media they believe are educational and what their children are learning from it. “Educational media” is defined as media that's “good for your child’s learning or growth, or that teaches some type of lesson, such as an academic or social skill.” Rideout shares some of the key findings for 2- to 10-year-olds:

  • 34% are using educational media daily, and 46% weekly
  • Parents say their children are learning "a lot" from educational media, particularly cognitive skills (37%), reading/vocabulary (37%), and math (28%)
  • Television is still the leader in delivering educational content to kids, with 52% of kids' TV use as educational, versus 36% of mobile and computers. Parents also perceive their kids learn less from mobile media than television.

Another key finding Rideout describes is that there's a large drop-off in educational media use after age 4, from 78% of 2- to 4-year-olds' screen time to only 27% of screen time after age 4. One of the challenges is the lack of quality educational media for older kids (or at least, parents' reports indicate this). Rideout recommends that we boost educational media use among older children, reach low-income children in most need, and create compelling mobile content.

Rideout also describes how parents aren’t actively searching out educational media, with 50% saying they come across it while browsing the Internet, and 40% saying they get recommendations from teachers. This speaks to the importance of informing parents about the educational value of media, and pointing them to resources such as our ratings and reviews for parents.

To learn more, watch the webinar below. If you'd like to earn a Continuing Education certificate for watching the webinar, you should access the recording through the Resource Library in the Common Sense Digital Citizenship Community on edWeb. Attendance to all of our edWeb webinars is free. Just join the community to receive timely webinar reminders!

What are your experiences as a parent -- or as someone who works with parents -- with children’s use of educational media? What are kids learning? Tell us by commenting below!