Psychology in the News

January 25, 2012

TV for Babies?

Filed under: culture, learning, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — intro2psych @ 1:41 pm

by Nicole Bronson

Wathing TV by roxeteer

Did you ever watch Barney or Sesame Street growing up?   Nowadays, in addition to Barney and Sesame Street, there are even more TV shows aimed at kids, ranging from a sponge that lives under the sea to a little Spanish-speaking girl who explores with her monkey friend!  There is even an entire TV channel, BabyFirst , which is devoted to TV programs for babies.  Technology, TV especially, seems to be more frequently targeting young kids as well as babies (Christakis & Zimmerman, 2009).  And despite warnings  that early TV exposure should not occur in children under 2 years of age, many parents still allow their children to watch TV younger than this age.  My best friend claims her 2 and 3-year old niece and nephew first started watching TV as soon as they were born! What parents may not know is that by allowing their children to watch TV at very young ages, they may be negatively impacting their children’s future cognitive performance and brains.

A  study conducted at Wake Forest University (2007)  investigated whether or not watching teletubbies teaches 15-24 month-old children new words.  The lead researcher, Marina Krcmar, compared 15-24 month-old children’s abilities to learn new words from teletubbies to their abilities to learn new words from a present adult speaker.  Interestingly, children were much better learning words from responsive adults than from the television program.  Thus, it seems learning new words at very young ages entails interaction with present, human teachers.  Children under the age of 2 may not be reaching their full cognitive and language potential learning from a TV, instead of an adult.

Also acknowledging the importance of determining the relationship between television children’s learning abilities,  the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a new policy statement  about technology use by children younger than two.  The new statement was created in lieu of technological advancements and new research that has been conducted since the original policy statement was released in 1999.  The original policy statement discouraged media exposure for children under the age of 2.  Meanwhile, the new policy statement also discourages media exposure for this age group, while additionally providing more scientifically backed reasons for why media exposure should be avoided.  Similar to the Wake Forest University study, this new policy claims children under 2 cannot comprehend what they are watching, and therefore do not get much educational benefit from it.  Additionally, media exposure may exert negative health effects on children under age 2, just as it has been shown to do in preschool and elementary school children.  These negative health effects may include increased aggression, attentional problems, sleep troubles and obesity.  Even simply having the TV on in the background may have negative effects on children under age 2.  Focusing on the TV rather than their child, parents may inadvertently take away from the quality of parent-child interactions.  This long list of potential adverse effects due to early media exposure was sufficient enough for the AAP to reaffirm the claim they made in 1999 and continue to discourage media use by children less than 2 years of age.

With an increasing number of children under the age of 2 watching television, it’s important to understand if television does actually induce detrimental effects and if so, how exactly it exerts these effects.  Adverse effects may be influenced by television’s impact on brain development that is occurring very rapidly in children at an early age (Siegler, DeLoache & Eisenberg, 2011).  Although babies’ are born with the majority of neurons they will have for the rest of their lives, many changes occur within and between their neurons, especially early in life.  One such change that takes place is called arborization, where neurons’ dendrites grow and differentiate.  It literally looks like a tree! The development does not end there, however, as neurons then begin to form connections with thousands of other neurons in what is called synaptogenesis.  So many connections are made, however, that some must be pruned.  This synaptic pruning—loss of neuronal connections—occurs in about 40% of the synapses and is mediated by a “use it or lose it” phenomenon.  Basically experience is key in determining which synapses are used and therefore kept and which synapses are not used and therefore pruned.  Sensory experiences babies encounter early on in life are extremely important then for signaling, which neurons are appropriate to maintain and which are appropriate to prune.  The major concern with TV exposure for babies is that it takes away from critical sensory experiences they would have had if not watching TV.  As most TV watching is a passive experience, children are not being exposed to different types of stimuli—olfactory, tactile, gustatory—they may be exposed to if not watching TV.  A member of the AAP Council on Communication and Media, Dr. Brown, recommends that babies, instead of watching television, engage in unstructured play.  Unstructured play is important for motor development, problem solving and creative thinking and thus contributes greatly to sensory experiences.  Furthermore, with less TV distractions, parents and children may be able to interact more, potentially leading to better language development in the child.  Physical interactions are key for sensory development and cannot be sufficiently replaced by a video.

With some surveys claiming that 90% of children younger than 2 have been exposed to technological media, learning about what adverse effects might result from TV watching needs to be brought to the forefront of the research world.  Sadly, little research has been done specifically on children under age 2 with regard to media exposure.  Naturalistic, longitudinal studies should be conducted from birth to adulthood to see what possible correlations can be made between early media exposure and negative future consequences.

With my parents claiming I watched Barney and Sesame Street earlier than 2 years old, I can only imagine what synapses might have been pruned and put me at a disadvantage now.  The next time you’re inclined to pop in a video for those 1-2 year olds you babysit, think twice.  You might just be taking away from the valuable nature of human interaction and sensory experiences!

References

BabyFirst (2011).  In www.babyfirsttv.com [Web site].  Experience babyfirsttv.  Retrieved December 6, 2011 from: http://www.babyfirsttv.com/parents/tv#how-babyfirsttv-born

Carey, B. (2011, October 18).  Parents urged again to limit TV for youngest.  The New York Times.  Retrieved December 6, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/health/19babies.html?_r=2

Christakis, D. A., & Zimmerman, F. J.  (2009).  Young children and media: Limitations of current knowledge and future directions for research.  American Behavioral Scientist, 52, 8, 1177-1185.

Council on Communications and Media.  (2011).  Media use by children younger than 2 years.  Pediatrics, 128, 5, 1040-1045.  doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1753

PBS Parents (2011).  In http://www.pbs.org [Web site].  TV and kids under age 3.  Retrieved December 6, 2011 from: http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/article-faq.html

American Academy of Pediatrics (2011, October 18). Babies and toddlers should learn from play, not screens. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 16, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018084628.htm

Wake Forest University (2007, June 27). Turn off TV to teach toddlers new words. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 16, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070627221722.htm

Siegler, R. S., DeLoache, J. S., & Eisenberg, N. (2011). How children develop. New York: Worth Publishers.

34 Comments »

  1. This is an interesting article. Growing up I know that my parents put me in the care of Barney, Sesame Street, The Big Comfy Couch, and I’m sure many others. My little cousin, on the other hand, was exposed to the famed Baby Einstein videos. The only observable difference in her development, say, in relation to mine, was that she learned to read in preschool; I did not learn how to read until kindergarten. While, there are many variables both environmental and genetic, that played a role in when we both learned to read one can only wonder if Baby Einstein made a difference. Is Baby Einstein better than human interaction if Barney and The Big Comfy Couch fall short?

    Comment by Stephanie Stone — January 31, 2012 @ 10:57 am

  2. Agreed. I still cringe at the thought of my aunt letting my cousin watch hours of television starting as early as four months old. That time could be better invested in him playing with a toy or interacting with other humans. I am sure these are significantly more mentally stimulating, which is crucial at his age for development.

    Comment by Janelle — February 2, 2012 @ 1:28 am

  3. Whenever I babysit I always wonder why some kids only want to watch tv and some kids only want to play outside or with toys. It’s interesting to see how maybe that is influenced by their exposure to television at such a young age.

    Comment by Maddy Vogel — February 4, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

  4. I found this article very interesting for several reasons. Not only have I heard stories of my mother returning home from work and becoming horrified at the sight of the babysitter allowing me to watch television at any ripe age under five but it also reinforces my own opinions about the effects of technology on children. Perhaps my opinions are strongly influenced by my mothers parenting styles in the realm of technology, specifically television, but I can’t help but agree with them. It seems now a days the second a child is born it is plopped down in front of a television or even better, handed an iphone or ipad. Regardless of whether the reason for the overwhelming presence of technology in an infants life is “educational”, to stop the child from crying/screaming or to simply reduce the amount of time a parent needs to entertain their child, all seem equally detrimental on strictly a social level, let alone how it is “negatively impacting the children’s future cognitive performance and brains.” The introduction of technology to a child under the age of two, as the data and studies clearly indicate, deprives them of the vital unstructured play that children have grown up with for thousands of years. I feel one of the most important points in this article is the study that investigated “whether or not watching Teletubbies teaches 15-24 month-old children new words.” The result of this study, that “learning new words at a very young age entails interaction with present, human teachers,” supports the entire argument that television, despite its “educational aspects,” is in no way more beneficial for an infant than their own parent attempting to educate and entertain them.
    I find our true reliance on technology strictly a depiction of the “times” but not something that can not be reversed. These studies show that television literally does damage to children’s brains- how much more obvious could it be?
    Thanks mom.

    Comment by Daria Schieferstein — February 8, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

  5. Television is an interesting and versatile tool. Teachers show documentaries, friends watch movies together, and tired people veg out to their favorite sitcoms after long days. Still, we humans were fine before we started spending so much time in front of the tube and it is clear that the presence of TV has brought with it some disturbing side effects. This is especially clear in young children.

    As Nicole said, early childhood is a critical time for brain development. Children learn constantly from the people and things in their environments. The more they receive a certain stimulus, the stronger that neural pathway becomes. Likewise, unused pathways are “pruned.” Diamond (2001)* showed that rats living in rich environments with changing stimuli developed thicker cortices than rats in uninteresting, unchanging environments. A backyard or a kitchen seemingly provides richer stimulation for children than simple TV shows. Furthermore, stimuli coming from real life are almost certainly more relevant to the situations children will face later in life.

    When we entertain our children with TV, some of their emotional attachment becomes devoted to characters rather than real people. In a world with pressing social and environmental problems, isn’t it important that our children learn to care about people and nature before they grow attached to Spongebob?

    *From Diamond, M.C. (2001) Response of the Brain to Enrichment. In, New Horizons for Learning: News from the Neurosciences [WebSite]. http://www.newhorizons.org/neuro/diamond_brain_response.htm. Retrieved August 17, 2006.

    Comment by Sarah Yanuck — February 11, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

  6. Very interesting how something as seemingly innocuous as television can impair proper brain development. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind when I become a parent someday.

    Comment by Matt Geline — February 12, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

  7. The results of this research are not particularly surprising to me. I myself feel the effects of TV-watching (and other media consumption) on my attention span and sleep patterns, so it makes sense that the effects would be even more pronounced, and potentially damaging, on someone whose brain is in a prime stage of development. I spoke to a children’s librarian at my local library (who I used to attend story hour with as a child) and she said that she has noticed a marked decrease in attention span in the young kids that attend story hour now vs. twenty years ago. I don’t doubt that it’s in part due to increased exposure to television and digital media.

    However, it also seems to me that it’s not television-watching itself that is so damaging, but the fact that watching television is replacing other more stimulating activities, like playing with parents or peers.

    Comment by Adrienne L — February 16, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

  8. I can see how watching television would be detrimental to the development of neural synapses, being – as the post points out – a rather passive activity. And in many ways, I’m glad children’s television (where I come from and when I was growing up) lasted about a half hour a day, and that the state channel had very few programs on during the daytime at all. This has changed in the past few years, children’s programming is now on numerous channels 24/7, and thus far more accessible.

    In any case, I’m wondering what the research says about other forms of technology. What are the consequences of letting a child play video games, for instance? The latest development of iPad apps and other gaming/learning technologies directed towards children opens up for an exploration of what these seemingly less passive activities might entail for child development. As when watching television, children are not exposed to a variety of stimuli (olfactory, tactile, gustatory); but unlike with the television, they may be called upon to solve puzzles, for instance.

    A commentary in Psychology Today* argues against letting children under the age of two engage with any sort of screen. Why? Because the digital world provides the child with what we might call an impoverished cognitive environment, as opposed to the far richer environment of the real world.

    *http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thinking-about-kids/201110/is-it-okay-let-your-toddler-play-the-ipad

    Comment by Mari Henie — February 18, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

  9. I think to explore the data further, a study should be done in which children are exposed to moderate amounts of television and parental interaction – it doesn’t have to be entirely one or the other. Then, the results should be compared this data to reveal any ways in television might be helpful in the development of kids. In this day age, as the article talks about, children tend to be exposed to television earlier – so perhaps all of this data can be used to improve the quality of the programs themselves.

    Comment by Manny Singh — February 20, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

  10. It appears that the apathy and passivity that television induces in adults, effectively leads to similar effects with children younger than 2. Rather than engaging in “unstructured play” which develops motor function and critical thinking many young children are forced or attracted to the TV exposure that hinders important sensory experiences. Experience is key as far as arborization and synaptogenesis is concerned with early brain development. In general, what babies are not doing instead of watching TV is harming development of key areas (The “use it or lose it” phenomenon). The effects that Television have on children are almost an indirect impact of the distracting nature of television for parents. Because parents are less likely to be fully engaged in interaction with their child with TV present, the child suffers. The lack of physical interaction, and the the exchange of words from parent to child (which is proven to be more beneficial to learning words from the television) is placing young children at a disadvantage and disallowing them from reaching full potential. In order to avoid the attentional problems, aggression, etc. that TV causes, one simple solution is a widespread effort by parents to spend time with their babies without the presence of TV.

    Comment by Curtis Smith — March 1, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

  11. Though I had known that television probably wasn’t the greatest thing for toddlers, I was shocked to discover the extent of its potentially detrimental effects and high opportunity costs. Collaborating with the blog’s assertion that television is too fantastical for toddlers to handle, and takes time away from stimulating play, a 2011 study by UVA professors Lillard and Peterson found that after as little as nine minutes of television, four year old children perform from .7 to almost a full standard deviation worse on tests such as the Tower of Hanoi and backwards digit recitation compared with peers who spent the time drawing. Interestingly, the third group in the experiment, children who watched nine minutes of an educational television program, did not show a statistical difference between the drawing group (with a p=.05 compared with the p=.03 with the drawing group).
    However, it may be that the effects of television can be markedly shaped by parental interaction. A 2008 study from Georgetown University’s Department of Psychology found that when watching an educational video such as Baby Mozart and Sesame Street, the problem of toddlers not understanding subject matter was ameliorated by parents asking questions and directing attention. This “scaffolding” by parents significantly increased video viewing time by the toddler, here used as an indirect marker for comprehension. However, the same study noted that the experiment produced inconsistent results with others that stressed the importance of sensory stimulation with peers or an adult. The true relationship between cognitive development and television use, which current evidence suggests is a decidedly negative one, requires the application of more time and resources in order to be more fully understood. ‘

    Lillard, A.S., Peterson, J. (2011) The Immediate Impact of Different Types of Television on Young Children’s Executive Function. Pediatrics 128:4 644-649.

    Barr, R., Zack, E., Garcia, A., Muentener, P. (2008) Infants’ attention and responsiveness to television increases with prior exposure and parental interaction. Infancy 13:1 30-56.

    Comment by Alex Lee — March 1, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

  12. I find it interesting that such critical development occurs when one is a newborn – it hardly seems fair. I wonder if there is a mechanism that would compensate later in life for — well, I’m not entirely certain what I might lack if I was one of these tots plopped in front of the television. I suppose a TV baby might later become a person who struggles with recognition of social cues, or who lacks a strong bond with its parents. Or, becomes perhaps even the most dangerous of all: another adult with an unwavering love of televisions…

    CSY

    Comment by Chelsea S.Y. — March 25, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

  13. These conclusions, to me, feel like common sense. What is the educational benefit of watching television for a baby who does not yet understand the words? A child requires interaction. They need someone else who they can respond and react to, someone who can adjust their behavior to the child’s various needs. We see the same thing with adults learning a different language. How much does an adult learn about another language or culture by merely watching a show in that language if they cannot understand the words? Learning is a give and take process that is an active, rather than a passive, process. Children learn by doing, by actively engaging in an activity that requires them to use their imagination and engaging their senses and attention. Without active stimulation, their brains will not be ready or not as ready as they could be to comprehend complex thought processes in the future. Perhaps it would be better if parents were watching TV with their kids, making TV watching into an active activity by asking them questions about what they think will happen next or why someone did what they did. Exposure to TV early on could also negatively impact a child’s habits and behaviors in the future. If parents always set their kids in front of the TV, then the children will only know watching television as one of their main types of hobbies/activities and will choose to watch more TV in the future when they have a choice. However, if kids were exposed to sports, books, dance, and instruments, they have a wider range of choices of hobbies to choose from because they already know how enjoyable all of these activities can be.

    Comment by Elizabeth Ngo — April 14, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

  14. I think this is especially interesting if you look at the research being done on the effectiveness (or rather, lack of effectiveness) of infant/child-focused educational shows.

    I wonder if any studies have been done about the difference between young children watching shows specifically targeted to children, versus standard “adult” tv shows. Even though inappropriate content would be one potential harmful factor, it would be interesting to seethe difference in children watching adults speak to each other, in normal conversational language, rather than watching people speak in infant-ese.

    Comment by Willow Carter — April 27, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

  15. Perhaps I am off base, but I think one thing to keep in mind is the *amount* of television watched. It is when watching TV takes the place of human interaction that such harmful effects occur. Obviously putting your child in front of the TV for 2 hours a day isn’t a good idea, but I would imagine having him or her watch TV for, say, 5 minutes wouldn’t cause that much harm. That brings me to my next point: the research states that even having the TV on in the background could be harmful. It’s hard for me to fathom that idea: if a child is having one-on-one interaction with an adult and doesn’t even notice the TV being on, how can it possibly impact the child in any significant way? I am not saying that I am skeptical of the study — it makes sense that even moderate amounts of TV exposure for toddlers can be really harmful in terms of development. But this study seems to imply that any TV exposure whatsoever, even if it is merely on in the background, can have *significant* impacts, and I guess I just have a hard time seeing how (though again, I am not entirely dismissing the idea).

    Comment by Jasdeep Achreja — May 1, 2012 @ 5:02 am

  16. It makes sense that children would not effectively learn language from a television program, given what we have learned about the importance of a child actively engaging with the person they are learning from. Concepts like joint attention and looking for meaning and structure do not work in television programs because the television and the child do not interact like a child interacts with a parent or caregiver. Rather, the child simply watches the tv. To try and accomodate for this, some television programs are designed with time lags to make it seem like children are conversing with the characters. However, these programs can only assume the child will give a certain response; if a child gives an incorrect response, they will not be corrected, and if the child gives a unique response, the television will not react to it. This can lead to the development of incorrect or narrowly limited speech abilities.

    Comment by Maddie T — May 2, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

  17. It seems to me that these parents shoving their two year olds in front of television screens aren’t very good parents. Perhaps researchers should look into the parents’ upbringing!

    Comment by Jonathan Lee — May 8, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

  18. Some may say that if a child is able to talk to several different people online then it may help him in the real world in real-life group conversations. I totally disagree. I have heard of extreme scenarios where people live double lives. They are a totally different person online than they are in the real world. They appear extraverted online but are shy and incapable of holding conversations with new people for very long. In this sense, the internet acts as a protective shield, a safe-guard instead of a healthy social environment. No one learns if they are given a safe- outlet all the time, especially children. Children will never learn to cope on their own if every time they are stressed they seek the comfort of their parents (secure base).

    Comment by Sascha Magnus — May 9, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

  19. Sorry guys please ignore that comment it was meant for a different blog post. Thanks!

    Comment by Sascha Magnus — May 9, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

  20. This article reaches out to the innocence and the simple behavior attached towards interacting with babies. Barney and other shows might not be the most interesting, mature shows available but it does serve a purpose. I feel it allows for the baby to understand language in a way other than parents and grown ups. The purple dinosaur is appealing towards entertainment for the baby, and will keep their attention for longer. Just like the wug test proved, babies have a good sense of novel endings of the language, and a good reason for such is through simple entertainment like these shows.

    Comment by Andrew Nicol — May 14, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

  21. I completely agree with the opposition, preventing children under 2 from media exposure, for various reasons. Scientific evidence showing less connections in the brain being made in a child watching tv rather than a child exposed to unstructured play should be enough for any parent to see a red flag. In addition to the proof, allowing your children to watch tv at such a young age takes away the opportunity for many self-teaching moments. Children learn by doing and repeating, not by gazing into a screen with material that they cannot comprehend. Many parents use TV as an escape or distraction for their children during busy times; the idea of “educational television” for babies only strengthens this idea that watching TV is doing more for their child then time with them would. Overall I feel that TV aimed at young children and even babies is harming our society by not only setting back children but also by overlooking the relationships that are formed in a household with unstructured and communal play.

    Comment by Haley Dusek — September 17, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  22. While I agree that no child under the age of 2 (or much older to some extent) should be exposed to large amounts of TV, there is something to be said for the effects of Observational Learning, and whether or not TV does a good job at executing it. While TV may not give a baby the same social and problem-solving skills that human interaction would, I would be interested in seeing whether instructional videos, such as how to drink from a cup or how to kick a ball would in fact be beneficial and work. In their experiment, Cook and Mineka were able to condition monkeys to have a fear of snakes or flowers, based on a videotape of other monkeys being afraid of snakes or flowers (Cook and Mineka, 1990). Therefore, if it works for monkeys, could it not also work for toddlers?

    Comment by Julian Plovnick — October 9, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

  23. While television viewing may be detrimental for children younger than age two, it is extremely difficult in an increasingly technological society to keep them away from it. Even if you never sit your child down in front of the television to watch a program, it is still very likely that they will be in the room while you are watching a show or that they will hear it as a background noise throughout the day. Additionally, stressed out parents and caretakers are likely to look to television as a way to find themselves an hour or so of free time. In today’s world, keeping a child away from television is a nearly impossible task, but efforts to minimize his or her exposure could certainly be effective. Simply because a child occasionally views a limited amount of television does not mean that they are irreversibly harmed because of it. Provided that the child receives a large enough amount of personal, face-to-face attention, the undesirable effects of their television time should be negligible. If having a child watch television seems unavoidable, the best thing to do would be to limit the amount of time that they spend doing so and to carefully select the programs that they are exposed to.

    Comment by Tina Muller — October 10, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

  24. I found this article very informative and enlightening. I knew that watching television had disadvantages such as lack of social interaction and decrease in exercise, I was unaware of the detriment television has on children’s’ brain development. I am especially concerned as I have a baby sister who often watches television programs on Nick Jr. The increasing amount of television shows that target children is alarming given the findings of these studies that show the harm in watching the television. I believe that while this information is out there it is often silenced by media tactics that mislead parents into thinking that these programs have some sort of educational value. Additionally, with an issue such as this socioeconomic backgrounds must be taken into account. Parents who work numerous hours a day often resort to the television as a means of occupying their children’s attention while they try to rest from a stressful day. While personal interaction is ideal for children development, these interactions vary between households.

    Comment by Shanice Garwood — October 12, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

  25. As we learned in class yesterday, children have the ability to shape their own experiences so that they can learn language. The only thing that parents need to do to “teach” their children is have interactions with them. However, even if these crucial interactions do not take place, children can still learn language. One of the ways that babies learn language is by using shared attention to distinguish what parents are talking about. However, the problems around shared attention and television are twofold. The first problem is that if children under 2 are watching a lot of television, it means that they are not getting enough human interaction to learn language effectively. However, if babies are spending a lot of time in front of the television, it also means that they cannot use the strategy of shared attention to compensate for the lack of language stimulation. Because television screens are two-dimensional, it may be hard for infants to distinguish exactly what people in shows are looking at, thus the strategy of shared attention would not work.

    Comment by Samantha Basch — October 12, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  26. I find this article very interesting. It is easy as a babysitter to be sucked into letting a baby watch “educational” and supposedly interactive television shows. I had always wondered how much these shows were actually advancing the child’s intellect and how much it was causing their brains to turn to pruned mush. I think it’s important for parents to fully understand this so they can change the habits of their infants and their own tv habits.

    Comment by Anonymous — November 19, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

  27. It surprises me that parents would ever think that a television program would be better for their children than face-to-face human interaction. At first I thought that the only reason media exposure to children under 2 is harmful to their cognitive performances is just because it means that the babies spent less time interacting with present humans. However, the information in the article about “increased aggression, attentional problems, sleep troubles and obesity” caused by exposure to media in children wasn’t so much surprising, but made me realize that there are actually aspects of watching television in and of itself that have negative effects on children. Especially more recently, technology is becoming more and more ever-present, mostly with children–I often see a very young child playing games or watching TV on an iPad or tablet while they go with their parents to the supermarket or are in a waiting room. This drastically decreases face-to-face interaction of parents with their children, which, as the article says, is detrimental to children’s brain developments.
    However, I agree with what some of the comments said about how eliminating children’s exposure to TV is nearly impossible, especially for those parents who want a few hours of rest after a busy day. I do believe that it is possible, however–I know from experience of being around children that they will be just as occupied and engaged, if not more, with some sort of puzzle or other toy that does not involve a two-dimensional screen. I know that my brother, when he was a baby, could occupy himself for hours at a time with just a piece of string, and I believe that all babies can do that if they are given the chance.

    Comment by Lena Nitsan — December 6, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  28. I agree very strongly with the content of this post. As a toddler and child, I was limited in what I could watch on television (according to my mother, Power Rangers were much too violent for children) and how long I could watch it. I believe that due to the technological age we live in that has videos and electronics created to teach young child, parents are neglecting the role they play in educating their children. The combination of technology and parental teaching is a delicate mix and will become more difficult to achieve as we as a society advance. Successful instances of combination of technology and parental interaction is my friend’s two year old niece and the videos “Baby Signing Time.” From watching the videos and having her parents reenforce the signing in addition to watching the videos with the child and interacting with the child during viewings, the toddler successfully mastered numerous signs by the age of two. By using technology and television as just a guide, the toddler was able to develop a skill that allowed her to communicate more clearly with her parents and family.

    Comment by 105 Student — December 10, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

  29. I think that this is really ironic considering the large market that focus on videos, TV shows and electronic games that are aimed at stimulating babies and “enhancing” their language skills. I can only cringe now as I recall the many time my sister set my niece down in front of the tv to watch the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
    The results of the article do follow what is expected from situations like this. Children need interaction with other beings to be interested in learning. I hardly doubt that we would be evolutionarily inclined to be stimulated my static images behind a screen as such a young age.

    Comment by 105 student — March 8, 2013 @ 7:42 am

  30. It’s very interesting that attractiveness has such an effect on the mind. I know that symmetry is one of the ways that animals judge their potential mates, hoping to increase their fitness by passing down good to their offspring, but I would have not thought humans to work like this.
    I wonder though, if our brains are wired to react this way to “beauty” then why are there individuals that are attracted to deformities. Would there be a difference in their reward pathway as oppose to the reward pathway of someone who follows the universal beauty metrics.

    Comment by 105 student — March 8, 2013 @ 8:04 am

  31. This article makes me wonder whether the effects of young children watching television are similar to those of young children using other technology like iphones and ipads. Today it is not uncommon to see toddlers playing with these devices, usually given to them by their parents as a way to keep them quite and behaved. Despite their young age, many of these children become extremely comfortable with these forms of technology and are able to navigate them as well as adults. Iphones and ipads are arguably more interactive than television, but it seems that their use would have a similar negative effect as television by taking away valuable human interaction. However, I still wonder if there are any benefits to this knowledge of how to operate technology at a young age, especially in a time where technology is becoming a part of most areas of life. Does the use of iphones and ipads require a specific level of cognitive development or does it help children learn certain skills?

    Comment by Hannah Keohane — March 25, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

  32. While I found this article very interesting and vitally important, I did not find the results of these studies surprising. Whether it is because we have been told for so long that TV fries the brain, or whether it is simply natural to view the artificial quality of television to be detrimental to both internal and external processes (it will fry your brain, and will also turn you into a couch potato), it seems obvious to keep babies away from the screen. However, in our modern day world, things are changing to be more technologically oriented in media. In the future I think it will not only be easier to show children media, but almost be difficult to keep it away from them. The busy schedules of parents today make it difficult to be able to spend long valuable amounts of time playing outside and engaging in sensory contact and direct interaction. The resource of time is marginal and the presence of media and technology is rapidly available. I am curious to see whether at a certain stage of development, technological media is no longer detrimental to the development of the brain. It is clear that within the first 24 months of growth, explorative processing of the sensory environment is vital for neurons to form connections. But television can provide many resources for learning and exploring aspects of the world not accessible in the immediate environment. At what age and how much television can actually be beneficial?

    Comment by Kylee Cancio-Bello — April 1, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

  33. I agree with above comment talking about how children might react to other forms of technology besides television. Often when I’m in places such as the airport, or grocery store I see children playing games on their parents iPads or iPhones as a form of distraction. I also remember having interactive computerized toys in my own childhood and I wonder what effects these things had on my brain as a child. We are living in an age where most children today weren’t alive in a world before the invention of the iPhone. I am quite curious to see what growing up in a world that is more relient on technology than any other age will have on children, beyond just the effects of increased time staring at the television, but also interacting with the screens on these other devices.

    Comment by Pilar Jefferson — April 22, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

  34. As it is suggested in the post, many parents now utilize television as a form of distraction for their children. And sure, while this may in fact allow parents the ability to better multi-task/relax when a baby might otherwise want attention, what affect does/will this have on their relationship?

    It seems that the coming generations, those who’ve grown up ‘glued to the tube’, are beginning to develop comfort and security in technology-rather than from their parents. Children may be left seeking necessary, healthy, and genuine social validation through globalized, impersonal social mediums such as Facebook. Telephones, headphones and bluetooth come to constrict the spontaneity of random social interaction-from living in the moment. It seems this has given forthcoming eras an air of depersonalization and desensitization. This is because the digital world is incapable of recreating the human experience, the chemistry of real-life interaction. It seems that life is now, undoubtedly, an imitation of art.

    I know of many friends my age and even parents who are incapable of falling asleep without the television on. This article referring to a study performed at Ohio State confirms that leaving any kind of light on during sleep may lead to depression (http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/07/24/keep-the-tv-or-computer-on-at-night-youre-at-greater-risk-for-depression/42184.html). You’d have to wonder how this would affect your sleep cycle (especially dendritization). I often see whole families out to dinner together-both physically and literally. However, they are all on their phones or ipads or ipods…escaping potentially defining moments of growth in favor of being prompt or updated. While we are seemingly more connected than we’ve ever been, it appears we are, on the contrary, merely distracted.

    Comment by 105 student — May 12, 2013 @ 5:16 pm


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