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How Captions Can Make the Most of Screen Time During A Child ‘s Development

Closed Captions Improve Screen Time For Children in Child Development

RevBlogCaptionsHow Captions Can Make the Most of Screen Time During A Child ‘s Development

According to a report by the National Institute of Health’s Medline Plus, the average American child watches three hours of television per day. The report further says that when all types of screen time (including TV, YouTube, video games, etc.) are added up, the average screen time comes up to five to seven hours per day. 

These large numbers are concerning for parents. because growing data suggests that the effects of too much television on a child’s development can be quite adverse. In fact, a report in JAMA Pediatrics states that excessive screen time is related to poor outcomes in various child development metrics. These measures include communication skills, academic performance, and cognitive functioning. 

Current screen time guidelines by the American Academy of Psychiatrics  state that:

  • Children under two years of age should have no screen time.
  • For children between two and five years, screen time should be limited to one or two hours.

However, much as you try, sometimes, TV or video games can’t be avoided. In such a case, how can you make the most of it? Is it possible to reduce the effects of YouTube and TV on your child’s development? And better yet, is it possible to use the increased TV time to educate your child?

The short answer to all those questions, and more, is yes.

Productive use of the screen can help children develop language skills, improve literacy in children, and even help them learn a foreign language. All this can be achieved using closed captions in videos. 

Literacy and closed captioning

Literacy, which is the ability to read and write, is fundamental for the development of a child’s communication skills. It helps children identify and understand written materials, and express their thoughts and ideas using their writing.

Studies show that closed captioning in videos improves literacy in children. The largest of these studies was conducted in India using same-language subtitles in Bollywood movies. The study found that the illiterate children who watched the films with closed captions showed significant improvement in their ability to read.

similar study conducted with secondary students in Hawaii, using Broadway musicals like “Les Misérables” and “Cats” rather than Bollywood movies showed the same results.

And a Nielsen study of 13,000 children, showed that 24% became good readers with schooling alone. But when exposed to 30 minutes a week of subtitled film songs, that proportion more than doubled to 56%.

One would think that all that text would distract children, but clearly, that is not the case. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the text, and that turns passive screen time into a learning opportunity. 

How closed captions help child language development

Reading Rockets, a national public library media initiative notes that information presented in video form lowers the barriers to learning. With closed captions in videos, children can listen to words through sounds and read them at the same time. This link between spoken and written vocabulary exposes children to phonics and word identification. 

Closed captions and subtitles can help language development through the following skills:

  • Reading speed 
  • Fluency
  • Word acquisition
  • Word recognition
  • Reading comprehension
  • Oral reading rates

These benefits especially help struggling readers with a learning disability, who would avoid books and print media. Hence, subtitles in TV shows, movies, and video games expose children to much more written words than they would see otherwise.

Hence, by turning on closed captioning on TV shows, movies, and video games, you can turn screen time into learning opportunities for your children. The FCC has now made it mandatory for all broadcasted TV shows and streaming to include captions, so the option of turning on the subtitles is easily available. 

Nearly all streaming services also offer closed captioning as an option, including YouTube videos, where content creators use services like Rev for human captioning. Most YouTube videos also give the option of auto-generated captions, which are not too accurate and may confuse children. Human captioning done by services like Rev are over 99% accurate and will help improve literacy in children.

Closed captions in video games 

While TV shows take up a large chunk of a child’s screen time, video games play an equally large part in it. There are several negative effects of video games on child development, including addiction, depression, and aggression. However, several studies now show that video games actually help child development, too. They help strengthen cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and perception. They also help children learn problem-solving skills.

Another major benefit of video games is that, if you add closed captions to the dialogues, they can help in a child’s language development as well. Several video games these days have characters and spoken language in them, and supplementing the speech with subtitles or closed captions can help improve literacy in children.

Using closed captions to learn a foreign language

While closed captions definitely improve literacy in children, that is not their only contribution to child language development. In fact, studies have shown that watching videos with foreign subtitles on helps learn the language much faster than if no subtitles are used. Just as with a native language, subtitles help make the connection between spoken and written words. Another major benefit is that movies and shows expose children to casual language with the slang that native speakers use. So closed captions can help children learn to speak and write in more than one language.

Closed Captions Improve Child Development

Closed captions are an innovative way to turn a child’s increased screen time to their advantage. They can help educate children and improve their literacy by improving vocabulary, reading speed, fluency, reading comprehension, and more. With FCC’s rules, all television shows now have closed captions. Streaming channels like YouTube and video game developers are slowly following suit, with content creators using services like Rev to provide accurate captioning for their videos.

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