The holidays are just around the corner. Many of the gifts kids will receive are tech-toys. Computers, video games, cell phones – all electronic gadgets are ubiquitous in our lives and the lives of our kids, but we should strive to keep our kids focused on their education, rather than busily distracted.

Children today are digital natives, and taking a realistic and practical approach to technology can ensure they thrive in the modern education system and surrounding world. Embracing this, Sylvan Learning introduced SylvanSync™, a new digital instructional system created to address the needs of today’s students while engaging them in a new, modern way.

“Children today use technology in a natural, unthinking way,” said Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., senior vice president of education outreach for Sylvan Learning. “They use smart phones, computers, tablets and other devices every day—at home, at school or with friends—to play, learn and communicate without thinking twice about it.

“Today’s children encounter and use technology both with and without the guidance of their parents,” Bavaria said. “While parents may sometimes feel potentially out of control with what their child is doing, when used effectively, technology can help serve as a vital tool in simplifying the complexity around learning and ensuring that their child learns while using technology, safely and wisely.”

Sylvan Learning is offering parents of students of all ages some basic tips for guiding their children’s use of technology this holiday season and into the New Year:

Elementary school

Safety first: As soon as a child first begins to use online resources, make sure to create a safe web environment. Carefully monitor and control usage, and employ protective tools such as safe search engines with parental controls. This is also the time to begin to educate children on some of the dangers of the Internet.

Match Up: Make sure you match up your child’s use of technology with what she is learning in school. By doing your homework, you can ensure that what she uses outside the classroom supports what she is learning in the classroom. Look for programs that engage several senses—visual, auditory and hand-eye dexterity.

Reinforce: Ensure your child has opportunities to relate virtual learning to real experiences. Standing in front of Niagara Falls, a device such as a smart phone or tablet can be used to get information about the landmark’s height, composition, history, and so on. Children should be encouraged to use technology to reinforce what they see and learn in the real world, and use real-world experiences to reinforce what they learn using technology.

Enjoy Learning: As a child continues to refine her own specific academic interests, help her select digital tools that aid her in pursuing those interests, and that encourage creativity and the willingness to explore new ideas and concepts. is a free, fun reading resource that motivates and challenges students to read.

Middle school

Empower: Middle school is a time of change, a period when children start to seek more independence. Begin to give them a role in choosing which technologies they use—but make sure to encourage smart choices and provide alternative options. Be candid about the dangers of the Internet, and about the risks of using it irresponsibly.

Intervene Early: Middle school is an important time for building the critical thinking skills students will need to tackle the challenges of high school math, science, English and other subjects. Effective use of technology can ensure that children do not fall behind during this crucial period. First encounters with algebra, for example, can be made less stressful with the aid of computer-aided learning and practice outside the classroom like Algebra Class, a free online algebra readiness check-up.

Monitor Social Reputation: Middle school is where social life often assumes an out-of proportion importance for many students. It is important to teach middle-schoolers that what happens on the Internet—what people say and do—can have a profound effect on how people react and behave in the real world. It also creates lasting impressions. Make sure you are aware of how your child is using social media, and teach them that responsibilities come along with its use.

High school

Plan for Success: Start to transition younger high school students over to more serious uses of technology they will encounter in college and the working world—for example, by ensuring they take advantage of classes that teach how to use commonly employed business, design or scientific software.

Manage Up:  Managing the college planning process is a great opportunity for students to use technology.  Students should begin researching what courses to take – and when – in order to maximize their curriculum.  They can learn when to take college entrance exams and the differences between the ACT® and SAT®.  They can research what their target universities are looking for in applicants and look into what students are saying about programs and professors.

Reinforce Skills: As the pressure of applying to college grows nearer, make sure that high-schoolers have access to the level of educational technology and supplemental learning they need to ensure academic success. Supporting your student with extra personal instruction using state-of-the-art teaching tools can bolster classroom understanding, improve test-taking skills, and increase academic opportunities.  Sylvan offers test prep programs, including, an online course with thousands of video lessons designed to help students prepare for the ACT® and SAT®.

For additional educational resources and to experience SylvanSync, please visit us on the web at or call 1-800-31-SUCCESS.

For additional educational resources, visit us on the web at or call 1-800-31-SUCCESS.

About Sylvan Learning

Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels with over 30 years of experience and more than 800 centers located throughout North America. Sylvan’s trained and Sylvan-certified personal instructors provide individualized instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, study skills and test-prep for college entrance and state exams. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS or visit