Educational TV: What to look for and when it’s appropriate
Consider the following factors when choosing an educational television program that is beneficial for your student.
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The Children’s Television Act of 1990 requires United States television stations that air children’s programming to include at least three hours of educational shows per week, roughly the same number of hours, on average, that children watch per day. Studies claim that only a small percentage of these shows can be considered highly educational, and separating the wheat from the chaff is an important, time-consuming task for parents. Use the following criteria to choose programming that is most likely to benefit your student.
Shows that are truly educational will provide your child with opportunities to practice the content of the program. For instance, Bill Nye the Science Guy shares experiments to try at home. Expect such shows to end with “take-aways,” practical, inexpensive follow-up activities. Consider replacing lower-quality programs with these activities.
After the show, does your student utilize new vocabulary or ask frequent questions? Is she more inclined to share belongings or to help at home or in the community? If so, the program is likely combining meaningful education with an entertaining narrative. But if your child now possesses a long list of toys she would like, it may be time to look to other networks or shows.
The correct relationship
How would you, as a parent, characterize the program’s attitude toward its viewers? Family-oriented shows often include jokes for young students and parents, and they encourage completing activities together. Educational TV programs approach children as capable learners or as future community members. When you watch a show with your student, consider the relationship the program creates with you. Do you feel as though the show is selling you a product, or do you feel like you are expected to contribute positively to the experience that the show provides? Do you feel belittled, or does the program help you and your child feel successful and empowered?
Themes and values
Lastly, it is very important to ensure that the show aligns with the values you wish to teach your student. While you may not enjoy the television program that your student adores, you should feel confident that it is age-appropriate and rewards values that are consistent with the ones you encourage in your home. Watch one or two episodes on your own first to determine what is consistently rewarded and what is discouraged by the lessons and activities taught on the show.
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