Does television hinder children’s language development?
Dr. Lin Day of Baby Sensory says this is not necessarily true - tv can have a positive effect on a child's literacy skills.
Research out this week has found that too much time spent in front of the television is hindering children’s speech. The survey of 6,000 people, including 3,000 parents, conducted by the Communication Trust, also found that more than half (51 per cent) of those questioned think youngsters can suffer from speech problems if their parents do not talk to them enough. There has always been speculation amongst both parents and professionals about the effect that television can have on a child, but it is also important to realise its benefits. There is some research to suggest that quality TV programmes can have a beneficial effect on literacy activities, comprehension and recall in three and four-year-olds.
Interactive programmes that encourage singing, signing, clapping and dancing can promote language development and imaginative play. Programmes that have themes of repetitive content can make it easier for children to learn new words. Studies show that toddlers who watch their favourite alphabet characters fare better in their knowledge of letter sounds when they go to pre-school than children who have no screen time. Children also benefit from snuggling up and watching television with an adult. The physical contact is good for them and parents can talk about the programme that they have watched together. High quality educational programmes can provide a window on the world for toddlers andhelp them to make sense of it. Some programmes canalso inspire parents to play with their child. For example, a nature or craft programme can be a starting point for an outing to the park or a messy play activity.
Convincing data supports the view that the content, editing speed and the length of viewing time are what really matters. Indeed, short periods in front of a television can help babies to focus on pictures, lights and colours a short distance away. Nevertheless, watching the screen for an hour or more may affect depth perception and long-range vision. Television programmes that haveslow editing speeds, continuous narrative and a single gentle voice are much better for the under-twos than fast-paced programmes with lots of zooms, cuts and multiple voices.
In an ideal world, babies and toddlerswould be happily entertained with activities other than television. However, it does play a big role in today's hectic society and preventing the under-twos from watching it may be an unrealistic goal for most parents.
The key is to provide good quality age-appropriate programmes as part of a balanced schedule and to limit viewing to 10 minutes for babies and 20 minutes for toddlers at any one time. Television should not displace important activities such as outdoor play, social interaction, talk, physical exercise and going to the park. If used responsibly, the risks of harm are very low.