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Education Reporter

Electronics Eat More of Kids' Day
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American children spend about 6 1/2 hours a day watching TV, using computers and enjoying other electronic activities, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey reported in March.

They watch about the same amount of TV - almost four hours per day - as five years ago, but new technologies such as downloading music and instant-messaging are increasing their exposure to electronic entertainment media. A record 68% have TVs in their bedrooms, according to the survey of 2,000 children in grades 3 through 12. Unsurprisingly, those children watch about 90 minutes more television a day and do less reading and homework than those without their own TVs.

These trends have caused experts to express concern about obesity, the impact of glorified violence, and changes in young brains from the constant multi-tasking. (USA Today, 3-10-05)

Less computer time = better test scores

A large-scale British study reported in March that the less pupils use computers at school and at home, the better they do on international tests of reading and math. "Computer use in schools does not seem to contribute substantially to students' learning of basic skills such as maths or reading," concludes the study by the Royal Economic Society.

In fact, the more pupils used computers, the worse they performed, a conclusion that casts doubt on the wisdom of the U.K. government's spending on school computers. (See article on related study in Education Reporter, Feb. 2005.)

TV, sex and drugs 
To make matters worse, a steady diet of sex-saturated television may encourage teens to start having sex earlier, a national survey of 1,762 youths reported last September in the Pediatrics online journal.

"It's social learning: 'monkey see, monkey do,'" said the author, psychologist Rebecca Collins of RAND Corp. "If everyone's talking about sex or having it, and something bad hardly ever comes out of it, because it doesn't on TV, then they think, 'Hey, the whole world's doing it, and I need to.'" (USA Today, 9-7-04)

Moreover, teenagers with a TV in their bedroom are more likely to take drugs, binge drink, smoke cigarettes and have sex, according to a separate study of more than 1,000 teens by researchers at the University of California. (news.scotsmancom, 3-29-05)

PBS show in hot water 
The U.S. Department of Education is taking a critical look at the Public Broadcasting System, which is supposed to run educational programs funded by tax dollars as an alternative to less-high-minded commercial television. However, some such programs focus less on academic skills than on "diversity" issues with a potential for offending parents.

One PBS program aimed at preschoolers, "Ready to Learn," was sharply criticized by newly appointed Education Secretary Margaret Spellings earlier this year for portraying a lesbian-headed household in an episode of "Postcards from Buster." She promised a more stringent review of department grants for public broadcasting programs.

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