The Effect of Television on Young Children
(Adapted from a paper by David C. Diehl and Stephanie C. Toelle)
We will be exploring recent ideas about the effect of television on children:
How does television affect our children?
Do children learn from television?
Does it affect their school performance?
What can parents do to maximize the benefits of television and minimize any harm?
In 1999, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children under two years of age should watch no television at all and that children over two should watch no more than one to two hours of high-quality educational programming.
Products such as the Baby Einstein series and Brainy Babies, among others, were specifically designed to reach infants and are marketed as educational materials to optimize child development. While marketed as educational, there is little scientific evidence that these materials foster learning in very young children.
Young Children’s Television Exposure
Despite the AAP’s recommendation that families limit children’s television viewing, a recent study found that 83% of children under the age of two use screen media (television, videos, DVDs) on a typical day and 66% of children aged six months to six years watch television every day. Another study found that, on average, children age six and under watch television for more than two hours per day.
While many studies focus on how much children’s programming children are watching, others are also starting to emphasize that children are exposed to significant amounts of adult television because the TV is often on in the background. All in all, television and videos are quite common in the lives of young children and can influence their development.
How Children Learn
Some of the key things that infants, toddlers, and preschoolers need are the following:
- responsive, engaging, and stimulating interaction with their surroundings;
- exposure to language and sounds;
- adults who respond to their actions;
- the freedom and creativity that comes with play;
- the ability to explore the world and manipulate objects around them;
- guidance, structure, and support; and,
- praise, affection, and positive feedback.