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The BBC has an article which says in part
A US team recorded more than 300 children aged between two months and four years on several days every month over two years.
They found that when the TV was audible – either on in the background or being watched – the number of words spoken and sounds made by either adult or child reduced considerably.
It is the latest study to imply that delays in language development may be the fault of TV, a medium blamed for a host of other modern ills, from bullying to obesity.
This latest study into TV’s effect on children comes from the University of Washington’s Dimitri Christakis, the researcher who made headlines after reporting that infants who watched the Baby Einstein series – a set of programmes billed as educational – learnt fewer new words than those who did not.
His new study did not differentiate between TV being watched or background TV, nor did it examine the kind of programmes that were on. But it did find that overall, adults barely spoke to children when the TV was audible.
This is another one of those research projects that states the blindingly obvious: television kills conversation. I am reminded of a book written by an Australian man who was a soldier in Vietnam. He grew up in a rural area that did not have TV and in the evenings people would sit on porches and chat, as well as visiting each other. Television arrived in his home town while he was in Vietnam, and when he returned he found that the community social activities had basically disappeared because each family was sitting at home dumbly watching the tube (“dumbly” as in “speechlessly”, naturally).
Back to the study cited by the BBC. They talk about the effects of TV on language development, and I’m sure that this is a problem, but what about the effects on parent-child relationships? Mothers will tell you that they love to stare into the eyes of their baby – which is of course the cutest on the planet – and I believe that women and babies are designed to do this because it fosters the parent-child relationship. Parents are the bedrock of a child’s life, and if a child isn’t connected to a foundation he’s going to have problems for the rest of life. He may later seek a replacement for that relationship in gangs and/or promiscuity; additionally or alternatively, he might try and blot out the ache in his heart with alcohol, drugs or food. Poor parent-child relationships are also a major cause of depression. Thus there is, in some cases, a causal link between television-watching and the social ills that our government bleats on about. Snap quiz: who owns TVNZ?*
Television isn’t the only thing that kills conversation. If you take a daytime walk around the parts of town that are predominantly welfare-dependent you’ll find plenty of houses that have thunderously loud stereos playing for hours on end. If that isn’t a conversation-killer, what is? In some cases the government is paying people to stay home and damage the parent-child relationship, along with the baby’s ears.
Here’s my advice:
- Do spend time developing relationships with your children. E.g., working together builds relationships and is educational
- Do talk to your baby using normal language (not too much ‘baby talk’) – it’s good for their language development
- Do read books to your children: kids love it, you’re building the relationship, and you’re teaching them. What a wonderful use of time
- Do get rid of the TV or reserve it for special occasions
- Don’t use TV as a babysitter
Children need relationships, and relationships need time. Don’t let TV steal that time, because you can’t get it back.
Other harmful effects of television:
- a person watching TV has less brain activity than a person who is asleep
- TV is also a stimulant, e.g. children who rarely watch TV are clearly overstimulated after watching a programme. TV teaches children to expect constant stimulation so, for example, they have trouble sitting still and/or reading a book
- TV dulls the imagination. In comparison, when a person is reading or listening to a book their imagination fills in the details not supplied by the author
- TV teaches children to have a short attention span
- children are copycats; do you want your children behaving like the people that they see on TV? If you don’t believe me consider this: how much blood has been drawn by children imitating a sword fight seen on TV?
- the body’s metabolic rate is reduced when watching TV: this fosters obesity because people are burning fewer calories per hour. Then there’s the ads for food…
~~Please share your experiences of the effect of TV on your children and family. I’m also interested in hearing from people who have removed their TV or restricted access to it~~
*the state owns TVNZ