There was a time not long ago when trying to get children away from the television set was near the top of the list of children’s behavioral problems. With the latest technologies, children, regardless of age, find ways to carry their personal TV sets with them. There are Kindle Fore for Kids, smartphones, and tablet computers to contend with that sometimes, even the best electric longboard can’t get them out of the house.
One reigning concern of parents isn’t the amount of time kids use their technology, but whether or not their reading skills are deteriorating – or even existent at all. Technology can partly be blamed as the mobility and portability of computing devices makes visual learning much easier. YouTube is said to have 100,000 uploads to its site per day. There is a lot to watch out there.
Learning by video clips is not always a bad thing, but to survive in the modern world you will need a good grasp of the English language in writing. There are always forms to fill out, instructions to be read, and being able to read what is communicated to you in an e-mail or written memo.
Some reading is being done by kids. Twitter messages are a maximum of 140 characters, though most tweets don’t hit that number because it takes too long to read. There is also a fair amount of reading done when shopping online, most likely customer reviews and similar information. But those blurbs are rarely more than 200 word articles.
If we are talking about reading books that have actual chapters and literary value, then the answer to the question may dishearten many parents and teachers. Several years ago a study was done to determine the attention span of the average YouTube viewer. The median number of minutes was about 7.5. Recent studies now put that number at under 5 minutes.
The major issue does seem to be attention span, as indicated by the recent sales of the Harry Potter series, which sold more than 1.3 million books in 2015. Children may be reading them on their tablets or e-readers, but the interest in Harry Potter books at least is still there. The challenge before parents and teachers is to find books that will pique the interest of children and get them to get engrossed in books that require an attention span of longer than 5 minutes.
What the difference is between a video and a book is the use of the imagination. Readers have to create in their own minds the places and people they are encountering. Visual media prepares it for them and music videos are another way to take the imaginative process away from kids.
Comparing the days when kids had to be forcibly removed from the front of the TV set, the reason was that the child’s imagination was constantly activated, either through cartoon animation or wondering, “How do they do that?” Looking around you will see that the movies that are at the top of the list in popularity today are animations. Kids and reading have always been two peas in a pod. Video can get boring, while the right book can keep your mind engaged for hours.
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