Monday, August 20, 2007

Television Viewing Dummy Downs America

Do you believe that watching television shrinks your brain? Researchers at the University of Washington have found that watching television, even educational programs like “Sesame Street,” reduces a child’s vocabulary by six to eight words per every hour of viewing.
The Journal of Pediatrics claims that for every hour spent watching a DVD, there is parallel decline in cognitive development. A comparison between babies watching educational DVDs like Baby Einstein found that those who watched the programs fell behind peers who spent time engaged in age-appropriate literature activities, for instance, being read to by a parent. Apparently, if you believe this finding, young children learn better hearing their own parents say words than a stranger, no matter what the words are.

Heavy television viewing by young children has also been associated with attention deficit disorder and behavioral delays later in life, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy recommends children under age two not watch any television. So, as for yourself, did you watch television at a young age? If so, do you believe it impaired your cognitive and behavioral development?

In a study using the Communicative Development Inventory (CDI), a test used to determine the linguistic development of infants, it was found eight-month olds easily recognize the words mommy, daddy, bye, peekaboo, bottle, no, and hi. If the research findings on language decline are accurate, an eight-month old who has learned only these seven words should not know any of them after viewing television for one hour. Does this seem plausible? Do you see a problem with research studies jumping to conclusions?

The Kaiser Foundation claims that 68% of infants under age two “watch television on any given day.” By age sixteen months, the average baby should recognize 170 words on the CDI list according to researchers. But if the statistics reported by the Kaiser Foundation and CDI researchers are both correct, the average child from age eight to sixteen months will have watched 240 hours of television and dropped 1,440 words from its vocabulary. Yet, how many16-month olds know 1,440 words!

Lesson to be learned is don't accept researcher findings on face value. Compare studies, and look for contradictions. Check for illogical findings and faulty reasoning. Don’t cite a study without analyzing the implications of the data or questioning the research methodology.

For more information on claims about the abysmal effects of television viewing on children’s brain power, check linguistic expert, Dennis Baron’s blog posting at:
Much of the information in this posting is based on this Baron blog post.


Megan Pilch said...

I watched Sesame Street twicw a day, and my mother always read to me when i was a child. I beleive you have to take everything in moderation. I can't say I never learned anything from TV, that would be lying. However, I do think that reading or being read to is more educational for the mind. When you read or hear something, you have to imagine what it looks like on your own. TV does not give the brain the same exercise, but you can still learn things you didn't know before. Also, what is average anyways? Is anyone average like the statistics say? Idon't think so. Their idea of average could be all over the spectrum. I don't think watching TV makes children "below the average." I think it may be the amount of TV watched and what they are watching that determines this. Or their lack of other activities like reading that causes a decline in learning.

Shannon Emmanuel said...

I actually did a paper/speech on television viewing within the youth population. I learned some interesting facts. It is said that individuals on average view about 4 hours of television per day. With those statistics, I believe it would mean that by the time a person is 60 they will spend 10 yrs watching television, and 2 1/2 on commericals alone. The statistics on television consumtion is quite shocking.

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