Article by Asa Zanatta, Chief Mom Officer of K5 Learning, an online reading and math program for kids in kindergarten to grade five.
Technology and Learning
An Ipsos Reid survey from 2009 found that 75 per cent of Canadian children in young families are Internet savvy before age seven. The evidence is irrefutable – our kids are immersed in, and engaged by, technology more than ever before and the stats keep rising. Many parents agree it’s important for children to be technology-savvy from an early age. The same Ipsos Reid survey reports 69 per cent of Canadian parents think kids need to understand technology, and more than half of parents with teens think the Internet encourages independent learning.
However, is technology actually helping kids with their learning? Where do parents see the benefit in their kids being technology-savvy? Is it to further academic skills, improve fine motor skills or facilitate social interactions with friends and family?
Canadian students are using technology for schoolwork. In a recent report (Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase II, 2011), ERIN Research points out that the Internet has become the main source for researching schoolwork. 75 per cent of students in grades six to 11 report doing their schoolwork online on a daily or almost daily basis. In that same breath, though, Canadian students recognize the drawbacks of getting information online. They’re not sure how much they can trust the information they find online contribute to a feeling that Internet research makes no difference to the quality of their work.
Learning up for Debate
Adding to that debate, we have to ask how much of their screen time kids really use for academic work. According to Active Healthy Kids Canada, Canadian children spend on average about six hours every weekday and seven hours daily on weekends watching TV, chatting online or engaging in virtual games. Although these numbers do sound a bit high to me, they are making a valid point.
Most of that screen time is used for entertainment media. The ERIN Research report indicates that playing games online is a favourite activity among younger students, with 89 per cent of grade four students reporting playing games online. By grade eight, 77 per cent of young Canadians download and listen to music on their computer, 33 per cent download TV shows and movies from the Internet and by grade 11, 62 per cent talk to friends using instant messaging.
Is there a disconnect between these stats and the real lives we and our kids live? If parents believe that the Internet encourages independent learning, but kids don’t trust the information they find online, then something isn’t adding up. If our kids spend six hours of their days in front of screens and they list their favourite activities as playing games, listening to music and chatting with their friends – how much learning are they squeezing into those six hours? Just some food for thought.
Do you monitor your kids’ screen time? Do they use the Internet for schoolwork? And how do you encourage them to step away from time to time? Leave us a reply and share your thoughts.
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.