While there’s a big difference between playing Fortnite for an hour and spending an hour learning music composition on YouTube, the truth is, there isn’t one media type that’s better for learning than another one. What really matters is how parents and caregivers support a kid’s experience with whatever they’re interacting with.
When a product is labeled “educational” it usually means the product has learning potential — but there is no guarantee your kid will learn the lessons the product promises. With any screen media you choose for your kids — movies, games, TV shows, and apps — what’s important is how it engages your kid. You can maximize the learning potential of any screen media if you consider the “four C’s”:
Connection. It’s really important that kids connect on a personal level with what they’re watching, playing, or reading. Are they engaged? Engrossed? Maybe even enlightened? Getting into a story line or identifying with characters primes kids for more learning.
Critical thinking. Look for media that takes a deep dive into a topic, subject, or skill. Maybe it’s games in which kids wrestle with ethical dilemmas or strategize about bypassing obstacles. Rote quizzing and simple Q&A-style games may be fun and seem educational, but they may not help kids find deep or long-lasting meaning.
Creativity. An important feature of many great learning products is the ability for kids to create new content — a new level for a video game or a song, for instance. Kids can feel more ownership of their learning when they get to put their own spins on the experience.
Context. Help your kids understand how their media fits into the larger world. For younger kids in particular, the discussions and activities surrounding games or movies are key. Being with kids while they play or watch, asking questions about what they’re taking away, and doing related offline activities can extend learning.
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