Consider a 2-year-old child playing with toys in the
living room. The television is playing a program
designed for adult viewers. Mother is in the kitchen
making dinner while listening to the TV. The child
intermittently looks at the television for brief periods
of time. Is television having an effect on the child?
Source : [tag]Child Development[/tag], Volume 79, Issue 4 (p 1137-1151)
You would think it wouldn’t be a problem having the [tag]TV[/tag] on in the background and your child playing.
New [tag]research[/tag] casts doubt on the notion that background TV is ok for very [tag]young children[/tag].
The Effects of Background Television on the [tag]Toy Play Behaviour[/tag] of Very Young Children, Marie Evans Schmidt, Tiffany A. Pempek, Heather L. Kirkorian, Anne Frankenfield Lund, Daniel R. Anderson, University of Massachusetts at Amherst (July 2008)
This experiment tests the hypothesis that background, adult television is a disruptive influence on very young children’s behavior. Fifty 12-24 and 36-month-olds played with a variety of toys for 1 hr. For half of the hour, a game show played in the background on a monaural TV set. During the other half hour, the TV was off. The children looked at the TV for only a few seconds at a time and less than once per minute. Nevertheless, background TV significantly reduced toy play episode length as well as focused attention during play. Thus, background television disrupts very young children’s play behavior even when they pay little overt attention to it. These findings have implications for subsequent cognitive development.
Download the full report at www3.interscience.wiley.com
There have been plenty of times when I’ve had the TV on and kids have been playing. Being so young I felt wrongly now that they wouldn’t be influenced. I noticed they were playing and not even glancing at the TV. If they stopped and started watching I’d usually turn it off. They were too busy into their play so this rarely happened.
Fortunately our TV is behind closed doors and now at an awkward angle in our house that you have to sit down in front of it to watch it. Who has time for that with so much to do during the day? I find we watch less TV because of it. None of us seem to miss that. Nevertheless, knowing that adult TV as background for the young ones does change their play and toy behaviour means when I turn on the TV- I need to be alone. Or certainly mindful of the consequences.
The full article is a fascinating read. It’s amazing how research tells us more about how children learn compared to the anecdotes we have had to rely on from friends and family. Nothing wrong with anecdotes but wider sampling of children and from a scientific background, gives us a better perspective on what we are doing with our children- helps, encourages or in fact hinders their development.
Managing screen time is an emerging skill as parents we are going to have to learn how to balance effectively. It’s clear that screen time for the under 2s is counterproductive to their learning to many sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics state no screen time. Let them play. But as they grow older computers, Leapsters, Xbox, Wii, “educational games” fight for their time.
We talk over dinner and don’t watch TV. That’s our family policy. It’s the one time we can come together as a family usually for the first time all day and share. We don’t want to share that time with the TV. Naturally, special occasions we’ll watch TV and eat but they are very rare, usually treats.
What do you do about TV in your house? Do you have a policy about screen time and how you’ll manage screen time as your children grow? When was the last time you talked about screen time with your partner? Do you set limits to background TV time in your house?
Would love to hear your comments.
Jeff Atkinson says
I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.
Mia of General Hysteria says
What a connundrum I’m in. We are TV people. I grew up that way, my husband didn’t but enjoys it; although he’s quicker to put music on. We just like things on in the background. Then, there’s the part where are family isn’t the usual family. Our son and his special needs make our family a little different. The TV calms him. It helps balance him, gives him a release of sorts…and helps him eat better. So…we also have 2 younger children growing up in our home now and I have to worry about them with the TV.
So, I guess one of my 2 New Years resolutions is to change some of our not so positive household habits. TV off at dinner. Earlier dinner so my son can get his TV afterward…not to mention that he’s getting a new sensory room.
Thanks for posting this.
Sometimes new research just throws a spanner in the works- doesn’t it. It makes us think but we do have to apply it to our situation. You know what works best for your family and if you are at all able to adapt or balance things more than I would say move that way.
You are in a unique situation with a special needs child where their care impacts the whole family in different ways. This research doesn’t talk about the interactions in a special needs family, although I’m sure the findings can be applied you’d have to look specifically at the family.
What is good is that you’re thinking about what you can do. Changes however small make a difference. It’ll be hard probably at first with the TV off at dinner. Being prepared with conversation starters or substitute the TV for low key subtle music might help ease the transition. Won’t know until you try if this is doable for your family.
It might be interesting to know how this research is received in your special needs community and with the health care professionals. What if anything is recommended for a family like yours with mixed needs.
Sensory rooms are a lot of fun to design and set up. How exciting! Will it be his bedroom or a separate room.
Thanks for your reply.