Exposure to screens and televised content seems almost unavoidable in America today. We see television broadcasts in airports, waiting rooms, elevators, and even at gas stations. We also hear warnings, though, about the dangers of too much exposure to screen time, especially for children and teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting exposure to media to two hours or fewer of high-quality content per day. Since television is such a significant part of our lives, though, is there a way to use it wisely that might actually benefit kids? Can children and teens learn anything from watching television? In short, yes. Television can be used as an effective teaching tool to help build literacy skills, address current social issues and energize classroom dynamics. Let's take a look at how television can add value in the classroom.
For early learners, age-appropriate educational television can help kids prepare to learn how to read. Several studies suggest that these types of shows promote sound recognition and letter identification. Preschoolers can pick up on basic vocabulary, especially when shows include a featured "word of the day" or a similar focus. At a more advanced level, young viewers can explore more complicated literacy concepts like synonyms, rhymes, and relative words. These shows often balance educational content with features that naturally appeal to young kids like upbeat music and friendly, engaging characters. That mix of factors may be key to holding viewers' attention. And, since most very young children have limited access to other media platforms, TV is still the most reliable way for them to have exposure to this type of content. It's clear that high-quality television content viewed in moderation can actually help young children learn.
Little learners aren't the only ones who can benefit from appropriate uses of television in the classroom, though. For older students, televised content can offer information that's more current than what is available in a textbook. Consider how politics and conflict can change relations between countries in the world and even the names and borders of countries themselves. Hard copy resources often can't stay completely up-to-date, but news coverage and analysis can help students understand what's going on almost in real time. Similarly, teachers can use this type of content in class as a starting point for discussions about current events. Classes in science, economics, communication, and art may benefit from examining recent research developments or even popular culture controversies, and television can be the medium that facilitates that.
Finally, just by introducing a different format into the classroom, television can benefit students of all ages. Research suggests that including a visual component in a message can improve learning and retention rates. Visual stimulation also appeals to students with particular learning styles; many teachers will attest that students don't all learn the same way. And, at its most basic level, using television as a teaching tool provides a momentary shift in the dynamic within the classroom. Students get a break from the usual teaching methods and are forced to shift their attention to a new stimulus. In some instances, showing a program or clip and then discussing it can present the teacher as a peer for a short span of time: Together, students and teacher analyze what they just viewed. For these reasons, television can be a welcome addition to the classroom, if it's used wisely. High-quality educational content presented judiciously can help students at different educational levels grasp new concepts and even add a little enjoyment to class time.