As parents ourselves, we at Story Time Chess know it can be a massive challenge to manage kids’ screen time, especially in early childhood. Household needs, remote work, chores, meal prep, long trips, and more; there are lots of situations when our time is stretched impossibly thin and the tablet, phone, or computer is waiting right there with a game-saving assist.
But concerns abound regarding our always-available screens: Am I doing the right thing? Am I impeding or altering my child’s development? Are they even learning anything from that video?
These are perfectly natural questions, of course, and it’s hard to get definitive answers because the problem, in many respects, is such a novel one.
The world is still waiting for truly conclusive, longitudinal data on the effects of screen time for kids’ long-term health and development, but a few recent studies have given us a clearer understanding than ever before about the implications of putting screens in front of our children.
In particular, a 2020 article published by the American Psychological Association provides extremely useful, actionable advice for parents who want the best for their children when it comes to educational and recreational screen time. Here are the biggest takeaways we found:
Don’t stress about video chat
In 2019, a study of over 2,400 families conducted by the University of Calgary linked increased screen time to lower scores on cognitive, behavioral, and social development tests in kids between ages two and three. That study, however, was solely focused on the effects of pre-recorded video, and strongly suggests that Zoom time with grandma and grandpa is not the culprit.
Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend zero screen time for one- to two-year-olds, but maintain that live, online interaction with a family member or friend is just fine.
Story Time Chess offers live, online chess lessons on Tutor Carrot, a unique video chat platform that provides an infinitely more engaging learning experience than a video or mobile app.
Babies and toddlers experience video instruction differently
In 1998, Vanderbilt University psychologist Georgene Troseth studied the efficacy of educational videos in two-year-olds and the results were fascinating: Before age three, kids are less likely to interpret what they see on a screen as relevant to real life.
In one study, toddlers watched a video of an object being hidden in a nearby room, but when they were brought into that room moments later, many struggled mightily to locate the hidden object. However, when the video screen was presented as a window frame, complete with curtains and trim, the toddlers did much better.
So what does it all mean? Early childhood students are less likely to learn by simply watching a pre-recorded video due to a conceptual block; they are much more likely to learn from face-to-face instruction, such as the in-person lessons offered by Story Time Chess’s sister company, Chess at Three.
Three- to five-year-olds DO learn from videos
On the other hand, the three- to five-year-old cohort consistently tends to respond well to video instruction. A 2015 study of 171 preschoolers in the Pacific Northwest showed that students who viewed a 20-episode run of the educational program Super Why! scored 4.4% higher on a language screener test compared to students who didn’t watch the show.
Story Time Chess’s online lessons were designed precisely with this age range in mind. Even better, our lessons are live and interactive, led by an expert tutor in real-time. This approach delivers the intimacy of an in-person lesson to students at the right age for video-based learning.
Parent involvement is key
In a 2016 study, Eric Rasmussen of Texas Tech University found that three-, four-, and five-year-olds who were randomly selected to watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood scored higher in emotional intelligence and empathy if they came from households where parents discussed the show with their kids on a regular basis.
One of the reasons Story Time Chess: The Game is so effective for ages three and up is because it’s centered on parent-child engagement, tactile play, and verbal development through storytelling.
Even when the table-top approach isn’t an option, connecting with your child about educational media is still highly recommended. But you don’t have to watch every second of every video in order to boost their impact and avoid potential downsides.
Jeri Lynn Hogg of Fielding Graduate University recommends instead that parents “scaffold” their kids screen-based learning by co-viewing the first few installments of a video series, asking questions about the content later, and checking in only periodically after that.
Moratoriums rarely succeed
Balance is crucial when it comes to kids’ screen time, according to psychologist Jon Lasser, co-author of Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyperconnected World. Lasser maintains that overly restricting screen time or doing away with it all together can inhibit a child’s ability to learn self-regulation.
According to Lasser, the best approach is to negotiate boundaries around screen time with children. Parents can reinforce those boundaries through co-viewing, which promotes a healthier relationship to media in general while legitimizing the family’s agreed-upon screen time limits.
That’s why we recommend that parents observe their child’s first few online Story Time Chess lessons. If parent and child can connect and share a learning experience, research shows that the lessons tend to stick.
Finding the Right Balance
At Story Time Chess, we’re deeply sympathetic to the challenges faced by parents in the digital age. After all, smartphones and tablets have only existed in their current forms for about a decade; the wild proliferation of easily available video content has come about even more recently.
At the same time, we recognize the proven benefits of some on-screen learning for kids over three, which is why we offer fun, engaging, interactive online chess lessons with live instruction through our sister company, Tutor Carrot.
We want to support each and every parent navigating our ever-changing world and the tech that makes it go. Stay tuned to our blogs and emails for more tips and information to keep your kids happy, healthy, and having fun!