Use technology, make a child cry

May 8, 2008

child.jpg Digital media and entertainment: it may not help your kids, and it may even make them cry.

A new poll released by Common Sense Media and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center on Thursday showed that U.S. parents agree that digital media skills are important to children’s success in the 21st century, but they were skeptical about whether it contributes to the development of skills like communicating, teamwork and establishing civic responsibility.

Excerpt from the release is here:

“When it comes to digital media in kids’ lives, it’s a confusing time to be a parent,” said Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media. “Clearly, parents seem to understand that the world has fundamentally changed and that kids need digital media to be successful in the 21st century. But the results also suggest that parents have reservations about how their kids engage with each other using digital media. That’s why it’s important that we help parents understand both the potential and the risks of digital media, so we can make sure kids get the best of this new world.”

The poll included a nationally representative sample of 695 parents, as well as an illustrative sample of 245 teachers, according to the press release.

Among the recommendations:

A national public engagement effort should be mounted to help parents understand that the range of 21st-century skills goes far beyond the “3 Rs” they learned. Parents should be provided with tools and information to help facilitate their comfort, acceptance, and usage of digital media to promote skills that will be essential for their children’s success today.

A somewhat more entertaining study out earlier this week from Consumer Reports WebWatch and the Mediatech Foundation found that many children’s Web site publishers manipulate┬ákids — and even bring them to tears.

Some of the findings:

Web sites frequently tantalize children, presenting enticing options and even threats that their online creations will become inaccessible unless a purchase is made. Some sites show attractive options that invite a click, but lead to a registration form instead. Some sell a child’s prior experience — a room they’ve built for a virtual pet, for instance — back to them, using statements such as, “If you cancel your membership, then your belongings will go into storage and will be automatically retrieved when you re-subscribe.”

The games we observed vary widely in quality, in educational value, and in their developmental match with children’s abilities. Such mismatches often result in frequent cries for help.

“There’s nothing more painful than watching a young child cry,” [study author] Warren Buckleitner said in a press release. “But unfortunately, that’s the end result for too many children who are spending time with ‘state-of the-art’ children’s online content.”


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