Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Study: TV Exposure and Children's Language Development

A new study was just released yesterday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine sheds more light on the research showing a relationship between young children's exposure to TV and their language development. A leading researcher in the field, Dimitri Christakis, studied 329 children aged 2 months to 4 years old. Using a very creative study method, he and his collegues had the children wear small digital recorders for periods of 12-16 hours. These recorders captured sounds and vocalizations the child was exposed to as well as their own vocalizations. The results showed that, on average, for every hour the TV was on, parents spoke 770 fewer words to their children. This is shocking given that the average adult speaks 940 words per hour. Thus, the presence of TV was associated with a significant decline in parent vocalizations. The study also found that children's vocalizations were much less frequent in the presence of TV as well. 

This study is very intriguing because it may help explain previous studies showing that infants exposed to more TV have slower language development. While this association has been found in several previous studies, researchers did not really know why this was the case. This new study suggests that young children's language development is impacted not so much by the content of TV programs directly but by the fact that parents talk to their children less when the TV is on (even in the background). Research has shown that babies learn language best by hearing it spoken from live adults, not recorded voices or images. Study author Christakis stated,

"Since 30 percent of American households now report having the television always on, even when no one is watching, these findings have grave implications for language acquisition and therefore perhaps even early brain development."

This new study reiterates much of the previous findings by these authors I blogged about back in March. Put together, all these studies suggest that TV viewing for babies and toddlers (under age 2) is not educational beneficial and may actually be related to slower language development. 

- Check out this article for some good tips on how to incorporate media responsibly into your child's life.

- Listen to this podcast by the study's author
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