Science for Kids (3 of 3) – The Danger of Underestimating Today’s Young Learners

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Science for Kids (3 of 3) – The Danger of Underestimating Today’s Young Learners

Over the past 20 years there has been a digital revolution so that most homes now have internet, mobile phones and specialist television channels aimed at young learners. This can be both an opportunity and a threat, depending on how these sources of information are handled by the parents and used by the teacher. What is clear, as statistics indicate, is that children are open to far more distractions than their parents’ generation. According to an annual survey carried out in 2009 by research agency Childwise, the total time spent in front of screens by 5-16 year olds in Britain was almost six hours a day. The survey of 1,800 children found that they spend 2.7 hours a day on television, 1.5 hours on the Internet and 1.3 hours on game consoles.

A victim of this amount of screen time has read, as stated in the survey, with an average of 0.6 hours a day. The number of children who read for fun in their own time has dropped from 80% in 2008 to 75% in 2009. Older boys in particular are resistant to reading, with 42% of 11-16 year olds saying they never read books for fun. The survey shows a picture of children growing up in a youth culture that revolves around screens whether they are used for games, watching television or chatting on websites. Half of these 11-16 year olds use the internet at home every day, with a typical session lasting one hour and 45 minutes. Again according to the results of the survey by research agency Childwise, more than a third have internet access in their own bedroom, and although parents may have hoped that this would help with homework, it is much more likely to be used for playing games, sending messages or watching video clips or television programmes.

Results of a similar American study: It would be easy to dismiss all this digital activity as of no instructional use; however, the exposure of these young people to the vast world offered by the Internet and documentary television, while scary for some, offers the promise of ultimate ‘home-learning’, but with its own set of pros and cons. We can still consider this form of passive learning as positive because it affects the brain. Examples like the latest Hollywood blockbuster require concentration to follow the plot, even for action movies. The young student can follow the developments in the latest gadget, so this can be considered a form of passive scientific education. Even hours of internet chat with friends can be viewed in a positive light because it builds relationships and basic communication skills.

The exposure of young students to so much human culture through television and the Internet, often seemingly poorly guided by parents, will lead to the creation of a new generation of young adults. These youngsters may not have the emotional maturity that their parents had when they were their age, but they seem to think and see the world like mature adults, with all that entails. The digital revolution has allowed this world to enter the bedrooms of young people.

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