Turn the TV Off For Better Language Development

Metro Editorial
Posted

Recent studies indicate that young children exposed to television viewing from infancy can experience a delay in speech and know fewer words than children who didn't watch television. But up until very recently it really wasn't understood why. Research points to fewer words being uttered around the house by caregivers in the presence of audible television. Therefore, turning off the TV can promote better language skills for children and adults alike.

A total of 329 children were observed in a home-based study lead by researcher Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The children wore a small, business card-sized recorder on random days monthly for up to two years. The recorder captured everything the child said and also heard during continuous 12- to 16-hour periods. The recorders were removed only for naps, baths, nighttime sleep, and car rides. A speech identification software program processed the recorded files to analyze sounds children were exposed to in their environment, as well as the sounds and utterances they made.

The results of the study, published in June 2009, were eye-opening. During each hour of audible television, significant reductions in child vocalizations, vocalization duration and conversational turns occurred. On average, each additional hour of television exposure was also associated with a decrease of 770 words the child heard from an adult during the recording session. From 500 to 1,000 fewer adult words were spoken per hour of audible television. Adults generally speak more than 900 words per hour. However, that amount is nearly obliterated when the TV is on.

According to recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under the age of two should not watch television. Instead, spend time reading, talking and singing to your child to promote brain and verbal development.

After age 2 is reached, children can watch age-appropriate programming, but keep it to a minimum -- no more than two hours per day. Here are other recommendations to follow.

* During meal times, keep the TV turned off and engage in conversation.

* Don't leave the television on for background noise. When it is not being watched, keep it off.

* If you are watching television together, talk about what you are watching. Make TV viewing a chance to talk and interact as well.

* Don't have a television in your child's bedroom. Otherwise you may have difficulty monitoring how much and what is being watched. 

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