The effects of watching television and other media for young children are detrimental to language development.
Television was invented in 1950 and since then, it has quickly evolved to occupy almost every single household in the US. Due to the explosion of many television channels and programs, there is always something to watch on TV. Children; therefore, spend an average of 3-6 hours a day watching TV instead of doing other social activities. In 1997, a mother developed video products when she felt that there was no appropriate channel for her infant daughter. Since then, there has been a great decline in children age’s first time viewing the screens. In 1971, children began to watch television around 4 years old. Today it is 5 months.
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In a short period of time, TV products for infants became a huge industry. Current average sale for baby DVD is about 500 million dollars. The titles of these products such as “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Boy” highly suggest that these DVD will benefit the babies during their development processes. In a survey of 1000 families, 29% of parents have their children watch TV with assumption that TV is good for their children’s brains.
Despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend TV watching for children under 2 year old, 90% of parents still ignore this advice. However, based on many well-supported studies, I believe that the effects of watching television and other media for young children are detrimental to language development.
Many educational TV programs and DVDs are heavily advertised that they will help to promote cognitive, language and brain development in children. Even some programs have been proven to be educational benefit for children from 3 to 5, they can still cause delay in language acquisition for children under 2. During the first 2 years of life, children’s brain develops rapidly and there are external factors that can influence how the brain develops. Features of TV displaying such as flashing lights, very quick scene changes and loud noises could be over stimulating children’s brains.
Children understand fewer words when they watch TV. Researchers said that for every hour spent on watching baby DVDs, infants from 8 to 16 months understand 6 to 8 fewer words than those who don’t watch. Reading or telling stories to infants at least once a day was found to increase their vocabularies by only two or three words, indicating that the negative impact of the DVDs may outweigh the benefits of parental involvement. Moreover, general television offers a lot of commercial cartons, dramas, news and sports which have poor educational quality for young children. Study shows that children viewing such programs have tendency to have lower vocabulary and poorer expressive language. Poor language development is correlated to either the amount of time spent on TV or the quality of program’s content.
According to Jean Berko Gleason, most young children experience language while interacting with an adult such as their mother and other caregivers. When the TV is on, both parent and child interact less to each other, especially when parents use TV as a temporally babysitter. Study shows that out of 941 words that adults usually speak every hour, parents speak 770 fewer words to children while watching TV. When interactions occurred, they were much more likely to be of a passive nature on the part of the parent. For example, the parents verbally respond to the child’s questions without actually looking at the child.
Even when the child is not watching TV, television’s background noise can still be very distracting the child’s activities such as playing with toys or spending quality time with family members. These interactions between parents and the child are a key element for language development in children. According to Baker and Holding, background noise is detrimental to complex cognitive tasks. During the interaction between parents and the child, background noise could reduce the parents’ attentions toward the child and; therefore, reduce the quality of that interaction. Background noise from television could also reduce the responsiveness of parents to the child. When the parents are watching a television program, it may be very hard for them to shift their attentions away from the TV to respond to their children.
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Research finds that children who have language delay tended to watch television too early. It is about 10 months before they could speak their first meaningful word. Children who are less than 12 months and watch more than 2 hours a day of television are 6 times more likely to develop language delay.
Children may miss opportunity to do more beneficial activities when they spend a lot of time on TV. Those activities could be reading, playing music, word plays, or other social interactions with other children. Most of caregivers don’t know the negative effects of television on children. About 60% of children with language delay watch TV on their own without any interaction with the caregivers. Compared to children who interact with their caregivers during TV time, the ones without interactive have 8.47 times more likely to develop language delay. This result could also suggest that development of language in young children is built on early interactions with caregivers and is strengthened later by a rich, conversational environment.
TV has negative effects on children’s attention ability which is one of powerful influences in the perceptual processes. A slow process of perception can cause language and the ability to engage in conversations seriously impaired. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is among the most common diseases of childhood, affecting somewhere between 5% and 20% of children. The concern that television might play a role in the development of ADHD is founded. In 2004, we conducted a large observational study of over 1300 children and found a modest association between TV viewing before age 3 and attentional problems at age 7. In that study, parents were prospectively asked how much television their child watched when they were between 1and 2 years of age and again how much they watched whenthey were between 3 and 4 years of age. At age 7, theycompleted the Behavioural Problems Index which includesquestions related to attention and impulsivity (73). The moreTV children watched as infants, the more likely they wereto have attentional problems at age 7 after adjusting for anexhaustive list of co-variates. Specifically, each hour of TVwatched on average was associated with an increased risk ofbeing in the 90(th) percentile for attentional problems (OR1.09 [1.03-1.15]). A follow-up study claimed to refute thesefindings (74) but TV viewing was measured at age 5 andattention wasmeasured at age 6, placing the exposure periodoutside the first 3 critical years of life. Indeed emerging datanow suggest that the timing of exposure is a critical mediatorof effects which is consistent with the developmental theoryof early brain development .
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