Parenting Resources

Today’s Kids Learn Differently

In today’s changing world, not only have systems of education changed, but the methods in which children learn have changed as well.  Today’s child grows up in a world filled with electronics, gadgets and multi-media entertainment.  Television, computers and video games have all contributed to changes in the ways a child’s brain takes in new information and assimilates it.

Children today have a shorter attention span than children of past generations.  This is due to the fast paced and ever changing landscape of media such as television.  Information is provided in short bursts, and children are expected to move on from one topic to the next rapidly.

But while media are often blamed for learning problems later in life, it is not necessarily as big a problem as we have been led to believe.  “A child who is capable of playing a video game for hours on end obviously does not have a global problem with paying attention,” states C. Shawn Green, PhD of the University of Minnesota, "The question, then, is why are they able to pay attention to a game but not in school? What expectancies have the games set up that aren't being delivered in a school setting?

The question becomes one of harnessing the learning abilities that children develop as a result of their exposure to media and using them to enhance academic performance.  Children today learn more readily with the use of multi-media approaches to teaching.  Computers in the classroom, early educational videos and even educational video games are all aspects of the modern learning environment that parents can use to provide kids with a head start.

“Children struggle when they try to learn in ways that aren’t natural for them,” says Dr. Mary Ann Smialek, educator and author.  Out-dated learning materials and approaches that don’t match with the patterns of learning common to today’s children are going to result in difficulties and frustration.  As parents, our best bet is to use technology to our advantage in the following ways:

  • Seek out educational media choices that work with your kids preferences instead of against them
  • Make use of educational videos that hold your child’s attention

  • Don’t force old-fashioned learning methods if they simply aren’t working for  your child

  • Make television and computers learning tools instead of just entertainment devices

As we move forward into an ever more complex and technologically advanced world, we need to use the tools that allow our children to learn best.  If the media have given our children a set of learning tools and skills, then we should use those tools and skills as much as possible.