It's counterintuitive: As parents, we believe we're boosting our children's education by providing them access to a home computer. But a study by Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy found that exactly the opposite may be true.
Researchers tracked test scores of over 150,000 North Carolina students and found that getting a home computer had a "modest but significant" negative effect on math and reading scores. Though parents think that Internet access opens their kids up to a world of information, researchers found that kids in the middle grades (five through eight) used their computers mostly to socialize and play games.
Duke researchers quit collecting data in 2005, so their findings are admittedly dated. But in the last five years we've seen social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook flourish. Even adults have trouble limiting their social time on the Internet.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends setting screen-time limits for every family member of less than two hours per day for kids under two and no more than two hours per day for older kids. Here are some of the AAP's tips for keeping non-educational computer time to a minimum, so your kids' grades don't suffer:
Give kids set social time on the computer
For instance, one hour a day to socialize -- from 8pm to 9pm say -- after that, the computer gets shut down.
Know what your kids are up to
Monitor where they're going online (and how much time they're spending) electronically, so you know exactly what they're consuming until 11pm. Homework sites ok, facebook, not ok.
Be a role model
Limit your own social computer and cell phone use while you're with your kids so they see that technology is a part of your life, but not your whole life.
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