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Why TV and videogames can be good for your kids

Many parents seem to see things involving time in front a television screen or PC monitor as something that will indisputably result in the rotting of their child’s brain. The irrational idea that kids can either be indoors watching the boobtube or outside burying army men in the sand – it’s seen as either/or without a happy medium. However, new research has shown that screen time probably isn’t all that bad for your children, assuming that you, as the parent, keep the amount of time within reason.


The television is obviously no substitute for a babysitter, but when parents and children watch together, kids learn and internalise valuable social skills. states that during the 1980s, researchers discovered that kids who watched Sesame Street learned more from the show when they indulged in this activity alongside their parents. This phenomenon became known as “coviewing.”The reason that these children retained more information from their television experience was that the interaction with their parents encouraged discussion of the themes presented by the show – meaning that more learning took place.

Today’s updated version of the same has the fancy title of “Joint Media Engagement” or JME. According to a report, entitled “The new coviewing: Designing for learning through Joint Media Engagement” from the Joan Ganz Cooney Centre, we can define JME as follows:

Joint media engagement refers to spontaneous and designed experiences of people using media together, and can happen anywhere and at any time when there are multiple people interacting together with digital and traditional media.

The interesting thing is that a lots of game developers have cottoned on to the value of videogames as interactive teaching tools. Having fun means that kids actively seek to learn (I was a huge fan of the game I love math! when I was a kid) and this works even better when you as a parent get involved in the game. JME is always a learning experience, because whether a child is playing an educational game or messing around in a collaborative game on the Xbox, they are absorbing knowledge - and they will learn both factual information and social skills.


If a parent is involved in the choice of media their child is exposed to, it can be highly beneficial for both parties. Children’s brains are like sponges and as they do a lot of their learning through “everyday doing”, JME will be taking place even when you set boundaries on what your kids are allowed to watch or place limits on the amount of screen time they are allowed.

The same report from the Joan Gantz Cooney Centre state the optimal parenting style to encourage learning is known as Instructive Mediation; which describes what happens when parents talk to their kids while watching a movie or playing a video game with them. Parents who do this have the opportunity to ask their children questions and discuss the gaming or other media experience the two of you are engaging in. With regards to video games, you can even ask your child for tips on how to play better. This is a good way to maintain the interaction because “slight disruption of the balance of power between children and adults can be a powerful motivator for sustained participation.” This parenting style encourages critical thinking and will turn your kids into intelligent adults.

We live in a media-saturated world and thus, whether you like it or not, your child will be exposed to many, many different themes through videogames, television and the internet (just to name a few), This is why is critical that we get involved in the choice of media our children consume. Our relationships with our kids will be improved through this interaction and our children will learn important thinking and social skills from their media experience.

You can read the full report here.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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