Watching TV may harm kids

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Old 04-Jun-2009
Watching TV may harm kids

Watching TV may harm kids' cognitive development: Study

WASHINGTON: Parents buying some time to do the chores by sticking infants in front of the television may be harming their cognitive development, a
study has suggested.

Researchers at University of Washington in Seattle have carried out the study and found infants vocalise less and hear fewer words from nearby adults when the TV is on, which in turn affects their cognitive development.

"There's no question that human voice and human words are what babies need. The data aren't yet conclusive about the fact that television is harmful, but they continue to mount," lead researcher Dimitri Christakis told the 'New Scientist'.

For the study, researchers equipped 329 infants, aged between 2 and 48 months, with lightweight recorders that captured every noise they heard in a 24-hour period. Then, a computer programme determined whether each sound came from the infant, an adult or the television.

The analysis showed that for every hour of television an infant is exposed to -- they don't understand television programmes, Christakis says -- he or she hears 770 fewer words from adults, on average, a 7 per cent reduction.

Infants watching TV also utter fewer "googoos" and "gagas" and interact less with adults than kids whose parents use the off switch more enthusiastically, the study, published in the 'Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine', found.

Given that a staggering 30 per cent of US households keep a television on at all times, this can have a substantial effect on an infant's development, according to Christakis.

"The newborn brain is very much a work in progress. All that cognitive stimulation is critical to the underlying architecture that's developing. Every word that babies hear, and every time they hear it, is extremely important.

"Many of these DVDs that target infants claim that they promote parent-child interaction -- which they don't. The take-home message for parents is to minimise exposure to TV during the first two years," he said.

In fact, this finding is backed up by observations made by a team at the University of Massachusetts, which found that infants exposed to television hear 20 percent fewer words from their parents during each hour of programming they watch.

"Parents are less engaged with the children if the television is on. Children over two learn a lot of vocabulary from television," Daniel Anderson, who led the back-up study, said.

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