For many families, the holidays meant new technology, and new devices in their homes. From toy robots to tablets, parents could choose from a wide variety of digital toys, many of which promise to teach kids indispensable skills.
With all of the new options, there is also new and growing skepticism about the effect of this technology. The New York Times recently reported that many Silicon Valley parents are banning screens for their kids. The Atlantic published a lengthy piece questioning the value of media in the classroom. And a widely-reported academic study found that many of the most popular kids apps don’t follow privacy rules designed to protect kids.
One fact that both critics and proponents of technology can agree on: media plays an outsized role in kids’ lives today. Research shows that more than 4 in 10 children under the age of 8 have their own tablet device. Kids are spending nearly 48 minutes on mobile devices, up from 5 minutes per day in 2011. But while the screen size may be changing, the amount of time that children spend with media each day is relatively constant. In fact, Common Sense Media found that kids 0-8 spend an average of two hours and nineteen minutes per day on screens, relatively unchanged from prior years.
So, as kids play their new devices, how can parents make the most of this technology? Experts agree that the most important thing is to engage with your kids about screen time. Ask them questions about what they are watching or playing. Help them set appropriate limits. And most importantly, help your kids find content that they enjoy, and that is educational.
This might be the hardest part for parents, with thousands of “educational” options in the app store. The easiest way to navigate the overwhelming number of options is to find trusted sources. Common Sense Media has in-depth reviews of kids apps, games, and more. You can also turn to HealthyChildren.org, which has lots of resources for navigating screen time for your children, including a template for a family media plan.
And, of course, you can turn to Channel Thirteen. For decades, parents have been relying on our station for trusted, educational content. Here in New York City, we reach children and their parents and caregivers with our programming over the air. We also recognize that children are using media in new ways. And so, in partnership with PBS KIDS, we’ve been expanding our work across platforms.
We launched the free PBS KIDS 24/7 channel, to make sure that our content is available whenever and wherever parents and families need us, without a subscription or fee. A livestream of the channel is also available on our free PBS KIDS Video app. And of course, kids can enjoy interactive games, designed to teach them real skills in a fun way on our free PBS KIDS Games app, which is updated regularly with new options.
Despite the new formats, our PBS KIDS content shares the same values it has for decades. It is purpose-built by educational experts to help teach kids social-emotional, literacy and STEM skills, to spark curiosity and encourage exploration. We also remain committed to protecting children’s privacy and safety.
And just as we thought 57 years ago when Thirteen was founded, we strongly believe that new media and digital devices hold great educational promise for parents and children alike, as long as the content on those devices is educational, engaging, and inspiring.