Closed captioning

I think I can speak for all of us that getting children to stop watching TV or streaming content can be a struggle sometimes. With all the research about screen time, parents are very aware of the damage too much TV and video time has on children.

Most of the research I have read suggests that children who have more than 10 hours a week in screen time had lower achievement than those who watch less than 10 hours a week. It is surprising how quickly the minutes add up. Children in the United States are ranked No. 1 in the world for the amount of time they watch TV. So how can we use this technology that children love to benefit their learning? Activate the closed captioning button! It seems so easy, but parents around the world are seeing incredible benefits from this simple act.

Parents are finding that when children watch/stream shows with the closed captioning on, their children are learning to read at an earlier age. Some parents are noticing quick results just after a few weeks of having the closed captioning activated on the TV/streaming devices in their house.

When adults watch shows, our brains can tune out the closed captioning on the screen if we choose not to read it. In children, their brain is still like a sponge, picking up all that is on the screen. Their mind will see the words, hear them pronounced, and comprehend what is going on through the show without discretion.

Closed captioning can help with fluency in young readers. Children have motivation to read the words quickly knowing that the words will soon disappear. It can help with word recognition for those children who have a stronger speaking vocabulary than reading vocabulary. Captioning can build the vocabulary words and definitions through quality programs. The presence of the words on the screen can help familiarize the child with print, sounds and meaning at a very young age. In essence, the characters are reading aloud the story to the child.

Having words running across the screen at times is a nuisance to many adults. Remember the days of accidentally hitting the closed captioning button only to spend the next three days trying to figure out how to change it back? The new TVs/devices seem to make this easier for us. Most models or streaming sites have the button labeled “CC.” It seems as though all devices and streaming services have this option thanks to legislation many years ago.

The children in some countries watch many reruns from the United States through closed captioning because English is not their first language. The children of Finland are some of the heaviest users of closed captioning, and you should see their reading scores!

Quality shows with the closed captioning activated may be the best electronic gift we could give our children — and least expensive!


Dan Olberg is principal at Park Elementary School in Hutchinson. You, Your Kids & School is a twice-a-month column from School District 423.