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Kitchen Table Time

TV time is not time well spent

Guilty! Yes, when asked if we have ever used the TV as a babysitter, I think it is fair to say that most of us would have to admit we have. And there are plenty of studies available to make us feel guilty as sin about it, whether we believe what “they” say or not.

Of course, all studies have some subtle revelations – those indirect conclusions that can be very interesting. For example, a study that appeared in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that babies under 2, who were watching at least 60 minutes of TV every day, especially TV intended for adults, showed developmental scores a third lower than babies who weren’t exposed to TV viewing. This developmental delay was obvious by the time all the babies were 14 months old. This discrepancy, the research study concluded, probably had a lot to do with the fact that parents and kids who spend time together watching TV were going to spend a lot less time playing, talking and interacting.

It just so happens, the research found, that parents who spent time reading and teaching their young children generally do not allow their children to watch non-educational TV.

Conversations, sharing books and doing fun activities together are essential ingredients in healthy development. However, it still begs the question, “Doesn’t what the kids are watching make a difference?” Come on, there is a difference between “Sesame Street” and “Sponge Bob Square Pants,” right? No, according to this particular study, it is not the what, it is the who that matters. Apparently, the researchers found no noticeable pluses or minuses between young children who watched “educational TV” compared to young children who watched kids’ entertainment shows.

Why? Because it wasn’t the TV-viewing that made the positive difference in a child’s development, it was the parents and the quality of time they spent with their young children that enhanced development. It just so happens, the research found, that parents who spent time reading and teaching their young children generally do not allow their children to watch non-educational TV.

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