A new study has shown that having the television on while you play with your toddler may result in language development hindered by background TV. The content of what is on the TV was not significant for this study; the attention of both parents and children was the focus, as well as the number of phrases spoken
The interactions between 49 parents and their toddlers, aged 12, 24 and 36 months, were observed by researchers as the children and parents played together for an hour. During half of that time, a TV program with content for older children and adults was on in the background. During the other half, there was no television program and the TV was off.
The number of words and phrases, including the number of new words, spoken by parents was lower when the TV was on than when it was off, the study found.
This suggests that the parents were paying attention to the TV even if their children weren’t, the researchers said. The TV was a distraction, and interfered with the focus of the adults on their children.
The length of phrases spoken by parents was not affected by background TV. The frequency and number of the phrases is what was affected.
The findings are important because American children younger than 2 years are exposed to an average of 5.5 hours of background TV a day, according to the authors of the study published June 11 in the Journal of Children and Media.
“Our new results, along with past research finding negative effects of background TV on young children’s play and parent-child interaction, provide evidence that adult-directed TV content should be avoided for infants and toddlers whenever possible,” said study author Tiffany Pempek in a journal news release. Pempek is an assistant professor of psychology at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va.