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Educational Media: Press play or pause?

February 3, 2014
Original Author: Keren Perles


Select content that is consistent with your goals for educating your children and with your family’s values

Deborah Linebarger

associate professor of education

University of Iowa

Should parents sit their kids in front of educational videos?

If their kids (above age 2) will be watching media anyway, educational videos can be a good option. At the same time, it’s important for them to make the right choices and use the videos correctly.

What Parents Can Do:

1. Don’t expect a video to replace a traditional teacher.

The teacher and student relationship can’t be duplicated by the transfer of information from a screen.

2. Make sure that the content is appropriate, both developmentally and in terms of content.

“Select content that is consistent with your goals for educating your children and with your family’s values,” says Deborah Linebarger, University of Iowa associate professor of education.

That might mean making sure that the content isn’t too violent for your child and that it depicts healthy relationships between both peers and between children and adults.

3. Make sure that the educational videos are proven to be effective.

Many legitimate educational videos and television shows publicize studies that have measured their effectiveness in teaching information to students.

Linebarger suggests looking online, either on the program’s website or on a site like, which provides ratings and other information about many types of media.

4. Watch with your kids – and talk to them about their feelings about what they’ve watched.

If your child watches a clip on a war, ask him to explain why both sides agreed to fight and to evaluate their choice.

If your child watches a video about saving the environment, discuss the ideas that he saw and ask him whether he feels like he should take action based on this new information.

If your child seems disturbed by something he’s watching, ask him if he feels uncomfortable with the content.

“I don’t think it’s essential or realistic to be there every time, but you should be there enough to help them set up good media habits,” says Linebarger.

“It’s important to help your child generally make good choices and understand the reasons for those choices.”

5. Evaluate your child’s learning.

“Parents should watch how their child attends to and interacts with the program,” explains Dr. Ellen Wartella, Director, Center on Media and Human Development at Northwestern University.

“Does it keep the child’s attention? Does the child respond verbally or physically while watching?

Does the child talk about the content outside of the viewing experience?

” If your child does seem to be engaged with the content addressed in the video, the video is likely acting as a strong educational tool, rather than an entertaining diversion from real thought.