BY MARY ROCKEY, PHD., BCBA, DIRECTOR OF PUPIL SERVICES, SERVICES, RANDOLPH CENTRAL SCHOOL
I often comment on the benefits of television for our young children citing the recommendations of the American Pediatric Association’s guidelines of no TV prior to age three and limited TV viewing up to age twelve. But are there any studies out there that say that TV can be good for children? The answer is, a resounding NO!
Renowned developmental theorist Urie Bronfenbrenner says “Like the sorcerer of old, the television set casts its magic spell, freezing speech and action, turning the living into silent statues so long as the enchantment lasts. The primary danger of the television screen lies not so much in the behavior it produces - although there is danger there - as in the behavior it prevents: The talks, the games, the family festivals, and the arguments through which much of the child's learning takes place and through which his character is formed. Turning on the television set can turn off the process that transforms children into people”.
Over the next few months, we will look at the research that supports the fact that TV directly impacts development in several key areas including learning language and language delay, the ability to attend and regulate one’s own behavior, increased aggression, interactions with caregivers, sleep deprivation, creative play and childhood obesity. When one considers these disadvantages, you have to wonder why we would turn the TV on in homes with young children.
Let’s start with one of the first studies by Dr. Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis, both of the University of Washington's Child Health Institute, who say new research indicates that toddlers under the age of three should not be allowed to watch television at all. They also say that even for older children, the negative effects of too much television outweigh the benefits of shows like Sesame Street.
The authors note that television has subtle effects on the learning development of young children. Studies of 1,797 children showed that watching television before the age of three was linked to poorer reading and math skills at the ages of six and seven. "For those who watch more than three hours of television per day before age three, the negative impact is similar to the adverse effect of large differences in maternal IQ or education, "Zimmerman said. This is a significant finding.
So, turn it off and play with your child!!!
Television and DVD/Video Viewing in Children Younger Than 2 Years . Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD; Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH; Andrew N. Meltzoff, PhD. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(5):473-479.
Mary Rockey, Ph.D., BCBA is the Director of Pupil Service at Randolph Central School.