Common Sense Media report: Media choices at home affect school performance

1 Nov

Moi wrote in Study: Children subject to four hours background television daily:

Let’s make this short and sweet. Park your kid in front of the television and you will probably be raising an overweight idiot. Tara Parker-Pope has a great post at the New York Times blog. In the post, TV For Toddlers Linked With Later Problems Parker-Pope reports:

Toddlers who watch a lot of television were more likely to experience a range of problems by the fourth grade, including lower grades, poorer health and more problems with school bullies, a new study reports.

The study of more than 1,300 Canadian schoolchildren tracked the amount of television children were watching at the ages of about 2 and 5. The researchers then followed up on the children in fourth grade to assess academic performance, social issues and general health.

On average, the schoolchildren were watching about nine hours of television each week as toddlers. The total jumped to about 15 hours as they approached 5 years of age. The average level of television viewing shown in the study falls within recommended guidelines. However, 11 percent of the toddlers were exceeding two hours a day of television viewing.

For those children, each hour of extra TV exposure in early childhood was associated with a range of issues by the fourth grade, according to the report published in the May issue of The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Compared with children who watched less television, those with more TV exposure participated less in class and had lower math grades. They suffered about 10 percent more bullying by classmates and were less likely to be physically active on weekends. They consumed about 10 percent more soft drinks and snacks and had body mass index scores that were about 5 percent higher than their peers.

Well duh, people. You probably already knew this. Guess why you have feet attached to your legs? So, you and the kids can walk around the neighborhood and the park. Better yet, why don’t you encourage your children to play.

Teachers were surveyed about how how home media choices affect a child’ ability to learn.

Here is the press release from Common Sense Media:

Entertainment Media Diets of Children and Adolescents May Impact Learning

Teachers cite negative effect on students’ attention spans, writing, and face-to-face communication

For immediate release

Thursday, November 1, 2012

San Francisco, CA — A new study on the role of media and technology in kids’ lives reveals that many teachers suspect the quantity and quality of kids’ at-home media choices may be negatively impacting their in-class performance.

The report, “Children, Teens, and Entertainment Media: The View from the Classroom,” is the latest research from Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media. Based on a nationally representative survey of 685 classroom teachers, the findings include:

  • 71% of teachers believe students’ entertainment media use — the TV shows, video games, texting, and social networking they do for fun at home — has hurt students’ attention spans “a lot” or “somewhat”;
  • 59% believe such media use has hurt students’ abilities to communicate face to face;
  • 58% say students’ writing skills have been negatively impacted by their use of entertainment media; and
  • Nearly half of teachers (48%) believe students’ media use has hurt the quality of their homework.

These concerns about the impact of entertainment media on students’ academic skills were consistent whether the teachers described themselves as “tech-savvy” or less comfortable with new media; whether they were new to the classroom or teaching veterans; and whether they taught at high- or low-income schools. Among teachers who say their students’ academic skills have mainly been hurt by entertainment media, more than two-thirds point the finger at video games (68%) and texting (66%).

At the same time, 63% of teachers say entertainment media has helped students hone their ability to find information quickly and efficiently, and 34% say it has helped students’ ability to multi-task effectively.  

“The social, emotional, and cognitive impact of media and technology on our kids is of paramount importance to Common Sense Media,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO, Common Sense Media. “We know that our children learn from the media they consume. This survey is yet another reminder of how critical it is to consistently guide our kids to make good media choices and balance the amount of time they spend with any media and all of their other activities.”

In terms of social development, more than two-thirds of teachers (67%) believe that entertainment media has a “very” or “somewhat” negative impact on students’ sexualization, and 61% say the same about students’ ideas about relationships between boys and girls. Among teachers who believe students’ social development has been negatively affected by entertainment media, the blame falls primarily on television (71%), movies (61%), music (56%), and social networking (55%). In comments throughout the online survey, several teachers noted a positive impact from entertainment media on students’ engagement with the world and their exposure to diverse viewpoints.  

“There have been several important surveys of teachers about the use of media and technology as a learning tool in the classroom, but few, if any, that explore what teachers think about the impact of media use by students at home,” said Vicky Rideout, president of VJR Consulting, who authored the study for Common Sense Media. “Teachers’ opinions are important because besides parents, teachers are the adults who spend the greatest amount of time with children and adolescents every day.”

While the survey offers educators’ unique and important perspective on entertainment media use and academic performance and social development, it does not quantify academic achievement and correlate results with children’s patterns of media use. For more information about the key findings of this survey, or for details about the Program for the Study of Children and Media, visit

The report is based on a survey of 685 public and private K-12 classroom teachers in the U.S. It was conducted for Common Sense Media by Knowledge Networks, now a part of GfK Group, from May 5-17, 2012. The survey was conducted online among a nationally representative sample of teachers who had been recruited to the online panel through probability-based sampling methods including address-based sampling and random-digit-dial telephone surveys. “Entertainment media” was defined as the TV shows, music, video games, texting, iPods, cell phone games, social networking sites, apps, computer programs, online videos, and websites students use for fun outside of school. The exact question wording is included in the full report, along with many verbatim comments from individual teachers.    

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, visit:

Press Contacts
Crista Sumanik

Julia Plonowski


Children, Teens, and Entertainment Media: The View From The Classroom

A Common Sense Media Research Study – NEW REPORT

November 1, 2012

A national survey of teachers about the role of entertainment media in students’ academic and social development.

Read the summary

Download the full report

Some parents use television and technology as a substitute for appropriate childcare.

In Television cannot substitute for quality childcare, moi wrote:           Sarah D. Sparks reports in the Education Week article, Is Television the New Secondhand Smoke?

Prior research suggests background television can have a “chronic disruptive impact on very young children’s behavior.” Studies have linked background television to less focused play among toddlers, poorer parent-child interaction, and interference with older students’ ability to do homework.

For every minute of television to which children are directly exposed, there are an
additional 3 minutes of indirect exposure, making background exposure a much greater
proportion of time in a young child’s day,” the study noted.

Considering the accumulating evidence regarding the impact that background television exposure has on young children, we were rather floored about the sheer scale of children’s exposure with just under 4 hours of exposure each day,” Lapierre said in a statement on the study. Lapierre and his fellow researchers recommended that parents, teachers and early childcare providers turn off televisions when no one is watching a particular program and that parents prevent children from keeping a television in their rooms.

It’s easy to think about this as just one more alarm about how our modern media environment is ruining our kids. Yet the more interesting take-away from this field of research is how critical it is for children to learn actively and socially. Children learn from adults speaking to, with and around them, and from actively engaging with their world.

Anything that limits or distracts from that active interaction can be a problem, but not an insurmountable one. For example, researchers at the University of Washington’s Learning in Formal and Informal Environments, or LIFE, Center, is doing some fascinating work on the potential benefits of interactive media. There’s also been some interesting work on using video conferencing to read with children.

If watching television is not an appropriate activity for toddlers, then what are appropriate activities? The University of Illinois Extension has a good list of Age-Based Activities For Toddlers

See, How to Have a Happier, Healthier, Smarter Baby

Parents must interact with their children and read to them. Television is not a parental substitute.


UK study: Overexposure to technology makes children miserable

Study: Teens who are ‘sexting’ more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior                                                                 

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