Study after study shows that TV is bad for our kids. We've heard that screen time puts kids in a trance, makes them fat, and even makes them depressed. So, there are educational videos that are great, but should the kids watch them? When do you use videos while educating your kids? Should you use videos at all?
I haven't read any studies on whether or not kids can learn from videos, but I have plenty of anecdotal evidence in my house. My kids and I do learn from educational videos and shows.
My daughter is into dinosaurs. She reads most dinosaur books she comes across and she watches every dinosaur show she finds on television. A most common type of phrase I hear from her is, "Oh, that's how that works. When I read it, I thought it was this way, but the show says it's a little bit different." So, for my daughter, documentaries help refine her knowledge.
My son is not the best reader yet, and he doesn't read for fun. He will sit down and watch NOVA, Discovery, and History channel shows with me. A few months ago I checked out a documentary from the library on Sparta, the ancient Greek city-state. Several days later he told me how Spartan warriors fought.
I watched a Discovery Channel DVD a few nights ago called Inside Planet Earth. I learned things I didn't know before, like current theory states the century of the earth has zero gravity and there's likely more biomass in the earth's crust than there is on top of it.
Even though I'm convinced educational videos can be useful to a child's education, I have a few guidelines that I use in deciding if the kids can have a particular screen time.
1. Sometimes animations can explain a topic much better than a verbal or written description, or even pictures. So, if a topic is complex and the video has a good animation in it, I'll give it a try.
2. If the documentary is from NOVA, the Discovery Channel, or the History Channel, I consider it.
3. If the children have read a lot of the topic and are tired of reading, videos are a nice break. The videos also give the children a chance to learn how to take notes, as if they were in a lecture.
4. I watch the videos with my kids. When something interesting, complex, or controversial is talked about on the show, I hit pause and the kids and I talk about whatever it was.
5. I talk about the videos with the kids after watching them. Sometimes I get my husband to talk about the videos and/or topics also.
Here are some of my attempts at making animations and videos explaining complex topics.