Many homes are plugged into at least one form of media. Television is still the number one form of media consumption for families, but many also have computers and portable devices. Parents often worry that kids are too plugged in due to their daily rituals of using iPods, cellphones, and the Internet — sometimes all at the same time.
However, many studies show that parents can not only participate in their child’s media use, but that their children might actually benefit from coviewing, according to the Media/Shift article “With Media, Parents and Kids Learn More Together.” The Joan Ganz Cooney Center recently released a comprehensive report, The New CoViewing: Designing for Learning Through Joint Media Engagement, which studied the effects of “joint media engagement” (JME).
Studies show JME is beneficial because parents and students get a chance to discuss their opinions, ask questions, and have a conversation around something their child is interested in. When parents are included in their child’s media consumption the parent also benefits in learning more about what their child is doing, which might lessen their anxiety as Internet use becomes less of a mystery. Parents can ask academic coaching questions like: What did you think of that? What was confusing? What was the most interesting to you? What can you connect this to something else you know? What are three questions you can think of based on this?
Findings from the Cooney Center report showed a younger generation of parents who grew up with the Internet are more likely have broad Internet use in their families, than older parents who may impose greater restrictions. More “seasoned” parents are more likely to be untrusting of information shared on the Internet and use parental controls without really knowing what is useful and what isn’t.
Playing video games has also proven to be less anti-social than some parents suspect. Kids who are each given a gaming device may give each other tips on how the best gaming techniques to get past a level and support each other in winning the game, says Tina Barseghian in the article. When kids are in charge of learning together they collaborate, celebrate, and bond. In addition, kids tap into their imaginations in ways that are generative and creative.
New media can be intimidating for some parents, but before calling a judgement on a child’s media activity, parents should ask their child to give them a tutorial. Parents can also search the Internet for a video or article they want to share with a child and use it as an opportunity to spark a discussion or simply watch something together. If parents can play the role of the academic coach, they will be able to participate, inspire and learn themselves from the new frontiers of media. With that type of teamwork and involvement, parents can see first-hand what is useful and what may be inappropriate from a learning or enrichment standpoint.