INTRODUCTION 5ME9EATION13 S23CT27CONC33APPE37TABLE OF CONTENTS6 A TACHEINHE LIN ROO
AISE FIL FOUNDATIONWhile the pediatricians suggest that screen media use for children over age two be limited to high quality educational media, what hasnt been addressed is how parents are supposed to know what constitutes a high quality, educational product.
There are no government standards, no ofcial denition of educational to indicate which media products are or are not educational, let alone high quality.
The resources parents do have in making these decisions are their own personal experiences, recommendations from other parents or websites, and the advertising and packaging of the products.The purpose of this report is to look at electronic media products for very young children including babies, toddlers, and preschoolers that are marketed to parents as educational.
The report is not designed to assess the quality or effectiveness of any specic products.
Rather, it is intended to:Examine how frequently educational claims are made in the marketing and advertising of these products; Explore the types of claims that are made for these products in the advertising and packaging; and Investigate the degree to which these claims have been scientically validated through research on childrens learning outcomes.Three types of electronic multimedia are examined:
videos and DDs; computer software; and video games.
The latter category includes the relatively new genre of video game systems developed especially for young children, such as the .Smile, as well as other screen-based interactive multimedia products, such as the Leapster handheld or the Read With Me DD system.
Products that lack a screen, such as electronic books, were not considered in this report.
The research focuses exclusively on commercially-produced products for the home following steps were taken to examine the educational media market and prepare this report:
1 Best-seller lists on Amazon.com were reviewed (as of June 20, 2005) for DDs and computer software for children ages 0-6 years; an equivalent list was not available for the products that are grouped together in this report as video games.Retail availability of DDs, computer software, and video games in Toys*R*Us, Best Buy, Target, and Costco was also assessed.
In each case, researchers noted the total proportion that made educational claims as well as the types of educational claims made.
2Twenty-nine different media products were purchased and examined, including 11 video/DDs, 8 computer software packages (several of which were collections of more than one program), and 14 video games (at least two each on four different gaming systems: the .Smile, the Leapster, InteracT, and the Read With Me D system).
The products chosen were considered to be representative of the educational electronic media products on the market, in terms of age ranges, educational claims, presentation styles, parent company, and use of licensed characters.
Selection was weighted toward best-selling products.
The purpose of these reviews was not to assess the quality or developmental appropriateness of the content or style, but rather to explore two basic areas: The types and specicity of educational claims made on packaging, on package inserts (including instructions), on product websites, or by company spokespeople in the media; and Whether guidelines were given to parents in the instructions, either in print or in the media, about how to maximize the educational benet of the product.
For example, do the instructions suggest using the product as a parent-child activity?Specic results for each of the 29 products can be found in Appendix A.Descriptions of the various types of educational content are in Appendix B.
14 A TACHEINHE LIN ROO
AISE FIL FOUNDATIONBut beyond the titles, many products include claims about their educational value for children; this is true even for products designed for infants, although the claims made for this age group tend to be more broadly about cognitive development than about specic learning goals.
For example, the package of a Baby Einstein video advertised for babies as young as one month old says that it creates engaging learning opportunities,9 while a Nick Jr.video for babies as young as 3 months old says it is specically designed for babies social, emotional, cognitive and physical development,10 and the package of another product for a similar age range says it enhance(s) cognitive development
.11 The Brainy Baby Left Brain video, for babies 6 months old and up, features a picture of a baby on the cover with a thought balloon containing the equation 2+2 = 4.
The video package says it is the rst video series that can help stimulate cognitive development, and that the video will teach your child about language and logic, patterns and sequencing, analyzing details and more.
Other video products make more specic claims; this was especially the case among videos aimed at children over two years old.Mickeys Seeing the World, for children ages 2 years and up, says it teaches geographic skills, while LeapFrogs Letter Factory, for the same age group, says it teaches Math Circus, for children ages 3 years and up, says it teaches numbers, counting, addition and subtraction. Nick Jrs Dora the Explorer: Map Adventures video states that it promote(s) cognitive growth, problem solving skills and an appreciation of Latino , the Sesame Street products examined for this report made fewer specic educational claims, and like the Nick Jr video, did not specify an age range on the product.
For example, the Elmos World Dmerely says that each segment educates and delights viewers young and old.In interviews, some companies pointed to what they dont claim on product packages or in other parent information.
For example, a representative from the Brainy Baby Company pointed out that In no way does the Brainy Baby Company claim that these products will increase IQ.Rather, all Brainy Baby products are designed for parents to use as one of many teaching tools, much the same way they might use a book, game, or toy. DUCATIONAL CLAIMSCComputer software packages for young children are almost all marketed as educational.
As of June 2005, at Amazon.com, all 16 of the software titles for children ages 12-24 months made educational claims, as did all of the top-20 best-selling products for 2 year-olds and 17 of the top-20 products for 3-4 year-olds.
Across all of these age groups on Amazon.com, the top-selling educational titles were largely from two main companies: The Learning Company, owned by Riverdeep and featuring the Reader Rabbit line as well as several licensed character products; and nowledge Adventure, previously owned by ivendi and currently by nowledge Holdings, and featuring the Jumpstart line.A somewhat different distribution was observed in retail settings, where a smaller proportion of products had educational claims.
Those making educational claims predominantly used licensed characters from PBS or Nick Jr.television programming.Most software programs that made educational claims appeared to target both emerging literacy and numeracy skills.As with the videos, the titles of some software programs reect the educational bent of the products, like JumpStart Advanced Toddler or Disney Learning Toddler.Some of the software programs made general educational claims; for example, the I Spy Jr.
product said it was brain-building fun, and the Boobah Zone program for 2 year-olds and up listed critical thinking and problem solving as among the skills learned.
But by and large, computer software for young children tends to make more detailed educational claims than do videos and DDs, often listing multiple specic skills that will be taught.
For example, the JumpStart software examined for this report (for toddlers 18 months old and older) noted over 50 skills taught, including letter recognition and counting. DUCATIONAL CLAIMSEducational claims were made for all of the products we examined in this category.
For example, the motto on the .Smile video game system is Turn ame Time Into Brain Time. The product is referred to as a TLearning System, and the company refers to its game cartridges as , the packaging on the Leapster product refers to it as an Educational Player, and says it allows a child to Learn essential school skills with games that teach reading, math and critical thinking. One of the most visible educational claims can be found in the T ads for the .Smile video game system.
The commercial features a mother nagging her children about .Smile:
M: oull never get into college if you dont play your video games!Narrator: Moms are now thinking of video games in a whole new way.
M: If you dont play your video games, no dessert!Narrator: Because of .Smile, the rst educational video gaming system.With .Smile, your kids will learn letters, numbers, and love learning almost as much as they love playing.M: ou can stay up one hour later if you play your video game.Narrator: .Smile, the educational video game that turns game time into brain time.G:.
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