What Impact does Viewing Television & other Electronic Media have on Infants, Toddlers and young children over three years of age? Dr. William Mosier Professor Wright State University
Factsaboutyoung children&TV • Children average 35 hours per week of watching television or playing video games. • Before kindergarten the average child will have spent 4,000 hours watching television. • The average child by the end of third grade will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 other violent acts on television & video games. • The average cartoon program shows more than 20 acts of violence per hour.
Evidence-based research indicates: Most television & computer games have a potentially negative impact on young children because of how media exposure influences cognitive and social development.
Difficult Facts to Accept Data indicates that exposure to television during early childhood is, generally, associated with NO enhancement of cognitive development and over-time tends to lower academic achievement. There is only very limited programing for young children that is truly educational.
Compelling Facts • Children learn from modeling, including television and video game characters. • Children are unable to separate reality from what they see on TV & other electronic media.
The potentially negative impact of media on young children must be considered in direct relationship to the content of the media young children are watching. What young children are exposed to while they are viewing television, video games, & movies is as important as how much media they actually watch.
The Negative Impact of TV on Cognitive Development during Early Childhood The fact is that television and video games can have an extremely negative impact on the cognitive development of young children. There is correlation between television exposure, prior to age three, and subsequent difficulty with being able to sustain on-task behavior.
Educational TV vs Non-educational TV Age-appropriate programing for young children, designed around well-researched educational curriculum, is associated with enhanced cognitive development & enhanced academic achievement. However, exposure to non-educational programming & violent content is associated with no cognitive enhancement and, in fact, decreased self-control and academic achievement.
Is Educational TV, Really, Educational? Television targeted at young children is promoted as educational, but usually, it is not. Research indicates that there are significant differences in how young children understand content from how older viewers grasp meaning from the content. If a young child cannot integrate comprehension from a specific media exposure, he or she will not be able to learn from the exposure in a way that enhances cognitive/social/emotional development.
Enhanced academic achievement in school is only linked to “educational” media programming after age 3 Young children over three-years of age who watch more than two hours of media a day tend to watch non-educational media. Viewing educational media after age five is positively associated with higher high school achievement in English, math, and science. It is also linked to greater interest in reading and involvement in extracurricular activities.
Young children are not able to understand the symbolic natureof television. They view what they are seeing as “real.” The typical 3-year-old cannot discriminate televised images from real objects. (For example, when a three-year old child sees popcorn in a bowl on a table in the TV set, he thinks that when the TV set is turned upside down the popcorn will fall out of the bowl.)
TV Commercials & Young Children Young children tend not to be able to discriminate between televised programming and commercials. The ability to recognize the persuasive intend and bias of advertisements does not develop until the end of early childhood (sometime after 8 or 9).
The Potential Danger of Media Exposure during Early Childhood Because a young child tends to imitate behavior observed in the media, there is significant danger of young children learning inappropriate behavior from viewing non-educational programming. The reality is that most parents do not monitor their child’s media exposure closely enough to guard against the watching of inappropriate programing.
Young Children View TV Differently at Various Ages & Stages of Development • Infant (O-12 months) Infants are attracted to the light and sound for very brief periods of time. • Toddlers (12-36 months) Toddlers can get meaning from what they watch. However, their link between fantasy and reality is weak so they copy real & animated behavior. • Pre-K & Kindergarten (3-5 yrs.) They don’t know the difference between fantasy & reality. They pay attention to violence because they are attracted to rapid movement, color, and sound. • Primary grades (6-9 yrs.) They begin to think that television is a reflection of real life. After viewing violence on television they show more aggressive behavior.
Research demonstrates that the effect of television on the very young child (under three years old), is potentially damaging. Infants & toddlers learn best from real-life experiences. Developmentally appropriate educational television programing can be beneficial to young children only after age 3.
Babies should not watch TV! Research indicates that viewing electronic media of any kind prior to age three is associated with decreased later academic achievement. Whereas, viewing educational media after age three can be associated with enhanced subsequent academic achievement. The problem for parents is to be able to recognize the signs of educational electronic media. Viewing two hours a day of non-educational media after age three has NO positive impact on academic achievement.
Infants & Toddlers don’t need TV! Infants and toddlers learn better from “real-life” experience than they can from any media presentation of the same content. (For example, very young children acquire language & increase vocabulary more effectively from direct interaction with adults than from hearing language through TV or “educational” video, like Baby Einstein.)
Infants & Toddlers don’t need TV!(continued) The same applies to the motor skills of infants and toddlers. The very young child will tend to copy behavior seen while interacting with an adults more readily than imitate behavior viewed on TV or a video.
Research strongly indicates that there is a correlation between the time spent using electronic media during early childhood and later academic achievement. Greater academic achievement is associated with lower exposure to electronic media during early childhood. Academically challenged children tend to be more drawn to television and violent video games than children with no academic problems.
Two hours means two hours tops! Watching no more than two hours a day of educational television for young children over 3-years old is positively associated enhanced academic achievement. However, viewing more than two hours a day of television of any content during early childhood is associated with decreased academic achievement.
Well-documented Facts: A vast amount of research has been compiled over the last 40 years to indicate that media violence = aggressive behavior. Other factors may contribute to this phenomena; however, television violence plays the most prominent role.
Watching aggression: How bad is it? Aggression is defined as any behavior intending to harm any person or object, either verbal or physical. (Graham-Melville-Thomas) Violent television programs are a common occurrence only on American television.
Media Violence & Children Children as TV consumers: • only focus on concrete aspects of a situation. • don’t understand why the characters are being violent, they just see that they are fighting and using weapons. • don’t make connections between cause and effect. • think consequences of the characters actions on screen are not relevant to their personal actions. (They just copy the actions.) • focus on absolute value categories: there are good guys and bad guys.
Unfortunately, it is not just prime time television that models violence. A study done by the Center for Media Education documents that in a typical hour of prime time TV, there are 5 acts of violence. However, there are 26 acts of violence seen in an hour of Saturday morning programming for children.
Viewing Violence=Decreased Self-control Young children over 3-years old who view violent cartoons show decreased ability to self-regulate. In contrast, young children who watch pro-social programming demonstrate higher levels of task persistence, pro-social behavior, and tolerance for delayed gratification.
The Inconveniente Truth What research indicates about how watching media violence affects young children
Research identifies three majoreffects of the violence young children see on TV: • Young children become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. • They tend to become more fearful of the world around them. • They are more likely to behave aggressively or recklessly around others.
1. Children often become decreasingly aware of pain and suffering in those around them. This means that they will have a harder time showing empathy toward others.
2. Children gain a larger sense of fear in the world around them. This will make it more difficult for children to trust others & could cause them to have social interaction problems later in life.
3. Children will often act more aggressively and potentially harm other people. Children who watch more than two hours of TV a day can have problems realizing boundaries of normal interactions with others.
Effects of TV Violence on Children Three Main effects found by the Mediascope National Television Violence Study: • Children learn aggressive behaviors and attitudes • Children become desensitized to real violence • Children develop a fear of becoming a victim of violence
First Effect Learn aggressive behaviors • Children that view violent television programs accept violence as a normal way of life. • Later grow up to more frequently use violence in adolescents & adulthood.
Second Effect Desensitized to violence in surrounding world • Lessened ability to be sensitive to the inappropriateness of violent acts • Less likely to see violence as a social problem. • Less likely to respond or intervene when witnessing violence.
Third Effect Fear of becoming a victim of violence • Viewing violent programs leads to a belief that the world is an evil place. • Long term viewing of violent programs leads young children to become anxious and insecure about their safety as adolescents and adults.
Research by the National Institute of Mental Health demonstrates that programs on television that depict violence lead young children to exhibit aggressive behavior as they grow-up.
Media violence & young children The National Institute of Mental Health coordinated 23 research projects at numerous universities: These research projects resulted in 60 research reports with the following findings: • Boys who watched violent programs during early childhood were more aggressive & delinquent by age 18. This was also true for girls, but acting-out behavior varied. • Aggressive children became more aggressive when they watched antisocial programs. Children who watched prosocial programs became more cooperative. • Children who watched aggressive programs were more likely to hurt another child than children who watched non-aggressive programs. • Children who watched violence on TV were more likely to use violence as a way to resolve conflict.
Research on Television Violence • Dr. Leonard Eron from the University of Illinois studied 400 viewers for 22 years. • Found that those who watched violent television programs between birth and 8 committed serious crimes by 30 years of age • During the 1980s the FBI found crime rates had increased 300 percent since the 1950s • Among children, women, and economically challenged • In 1983, the National Institute of Mental Health found a link between violence on television and aggressive behavior among children. • Ten percent of youth violence can be attributed to television.
American Medical Association (AMA) study:Children who tend to watch more than two hours of television a day have a much greater risk of obesity, increased use of alcohol & other drugs, as well as involvement in sexual activity at an earlier age.
Media Violence Research A longitudinal study involved a group of 557 children, ages 6-10, who were growing up in Chicago. They were asked what violent shows they watched, whether they thought the violence was realistic, and if they related to the aggressive characters. Years later the group were re-surveyed (329) boys & girls from the original group. They were asked about their favorite TV programs now and about their aggressive behaviors. Their friends & spouses were also interviewed. Data from state archives were obtained on the participants. What were the results?
Media Violence Research (continued) RESULTS: Men who watched violent TV shows as young children pushed or grabbed their spouses more than the control group. They were also more likely to have been convicted of a crime or moving traffic violation. These men were convicted of crimes three times more than men in the control group. The women who watched violent shows as young children were found to have thrown something at their spouse or responded to someone that made them angry by pushing or punching the person. They were more likely to have been convicted of a crime or moving traffic violation. These women had punched or beaten another adult four times more often than women in the control group.
What Can We Do As Parents? • Learn about what TV programs your child watches. • Watch TV with your child and discuss the show after it is over. • Find out what your child watches when you are not around. • Negotiate rules for watching TV. • Talk to other parents and your child’s teacher about the effects of television violence. • Parents need to supervise children’s programs and model, by watching, appropriate television programs.
Co-viewing media with young children A little appreciated important component of effective learning from educational electronic media during early childhood is co-viewing programming with a caregiver/parent/teacher. Adults co-viewing educational programming with young children can draw attention to a key component & extend learning by talking about the material presented. Adults co-viewing educational media with young children reinforces interest in learning.
Take-home Message Television can provide models for young children over three years of age to learn prosocial behavior (social competence) and enhance attention skills. However, very few programs for young children exists that are developmentally appropriate for doing so.
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