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Benefits of Media

By Rachel Wadham, Host of WORLDS AWAITING

As a children’s literature specialist I’m all for books, but the truth is that in today’s world you can’t escape the realities of electronic media. The constant stream of media especially around children certainly creates some challenges for adults. Without a doubt there are some valid concerns about children’s engagement with media, but even as we face these challenges it is important to remember that there are some positive aspects about media as well.  Take, for example, the media’s ability to teach children problem solving skills. There is a wide range of children’s educational television shows that allow children to solve hypothetical problems right along with their favorite characters. From everyday problems - like sharing toys with friends and others, dealing with the death of a pet, and seeing characters tackle these problems - can help children develop confidence to solve their own challenges. The benefits can go beyond personal problems as well. For example, one study showed that watching a mathematics based television show led to improved performance for fifth graders in solving all kinds of mathematical problems. The effect is also not limited to television; video games also show some interesting connections to problem solving skills.  Another study found that playing computer games improved fourteen-to-sixteen-year-olds’ performance on computer based educational tasks. So, maybe it’s time for adults to connect to some of the positives of electronic media by building on the problem-solving they portray. As adults, we can take these teachable moments and extend them to the real world by watching or playing together with our own children, and then discuss the concepts and issues encountered afterwards. It could be that a little adult mediated media time may be just the thing children need to make them the critical innovators of tomorrow. 

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Children’s Learning from Educational Television: Sesame Street and Beyond by Shalom Fisch.  Routledge, 2004.

Media and Young Children’s Learning: Learning from Educational Media by Heather L. Kirkorian, Ellen Wartella, and Daniel R. Anderson.  Retrieved at: http://www.futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=32&articleid=56§ionid=245

Hall, E. R. (1990). “Television and children’s problem-solving behavior: A synopsis of an evaluation of the effects of “Square One TV” Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 9 (2), 161-74.

Pillay, H. (2003) “An Investigation of Cognitive Processes Engaged in by Recreational Computer Game Players: Implications for Skills of the Future,” Journal of Research on Technology in Education 34, 336–50.

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