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Digital Media and Your Child


Make it Count

At the school my children attend, there is a lot of talk about the “Cs” of 21st Century Education and the importance of school programming that “delivers” on the “Cs.” Pat Basset, Head of the National Association of Independent Schools, defines the important Cs as: : Creativity, Character, Critical Thinking, Communication, Cosmopolitanism, and Collaboration. I would add two more Cs to the list: Connection and Context. While the Cs are an extremely valuable evaluation tool for a school to use, they are also words that parents should have in mind as engaged and informed parent-educators and consumers for their children.

There is an overwhelming amount of digital media in our kids’ lives today. We can no longer afford to shrug off the fact that our children are going to want to be engaged with technology and digital media. If the fact that our children are going to be engaged with technology is unavoidable, it behooves us to make sure that our children are engaged with digital media and technology that has some benefits for them, but figuring out what has valuable content and is taught in innovative ways can be tricky. I use Common Sense Media as a reliable filter to help me make choices when it comes to children’s technology and digital media. A recent Common Sense Media article by Shira Lee Katz highlighted the products below.

What makes me excited about them is that they were chosen using criteria spelled out in Pat Basset’s very important “Cs.

Connection. It’s really important that kids connect on a personal level to what they’re playing. Are they engaged? Engrossed? Maybe even enlightened? Think of apps, games and websites like you might a good book. Getting into the storyline or identifying with the characters primes kids for more learning.

Check out:

1. Love to Count Pirate Trio (age 5 and up)

2. Journey (age 10 and up)

3. Professor Layton and the Last Specter (age 12 and up)

Critical thinking. Look for media that takes a deep dive into a topic, subject or skill. Maybe they’re 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 educational on the surface, but they may not help kids find deep or long-lasting meaning.

Check out:

1. I Spy Castle (age 6 and up)

2. DragonBox+ (age 8 and up)

3. Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (age 13 and up)

Creativity. A great feature of many great learning products is the ability for kids to create new content themselves — a new level for a video game or a song of their own, for instance. Kids can feel more ownership of their learning when they get to put their own personal spin on the experience.

Check out:

1. Little Big Planet (age 8 and up)

2. Minecraft (age 11 and up)

3. GarageBand (age 12 and up)

Ms Shira’s article also points out another important “C”—Context:

“And of course, it’s always important to keep in mind the context in which kids are playing. For younger kids in particular, the discussion and activities they do surrounding games are key. Being with kids while they play, asking questions about what they’re taking away and doing related offline activities can extend learning even further.”

Check out the “Explore, Discuss, Enjoy” and “How Parents Can Help” tips that go along with these games:

1. ItzaZoo (age 4 and up)

2. Herotopia (age 7 and up)

3. Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes (age10 and up)

As with everything in parenting, the word “context” is so important and cannot be over emphasized. Parents need to express an interest and seek involvement in whatever digital media their children are engaging in at a young age so that the habit of having a real-life dialogue about technology is the norm in a household. Too often technology is used as a babysitter for young children and a private refuge/escape for older children. While a degree of using technology as a respite is OK and, let’s face it, sometimes a lifesaver for all parties involved, it is healthier for children and leads to happier families overall if it is shared and yet another way for parents to connect with their children.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

April 8, 2013

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