Faculty, Featured, Research|June 19, 2014 9:45 am

Professor’s Study Suggests Background TV Harms Toddlers’ Language Development

A new study co-authored by a Hollins University professor indicates that the presence of background television adversely impacts the development of children’s language skills.

Assistant Professor of Psychology Tiffany Pempek and fellow researchers Heather Kirkorian and Daniel Anderson conducted the study, “The Effects of Background Television on the Quantity and Quality of Child-directed Speech by Parents,” which was published in the Journal of Children and Media June 11. Parents of toddlers aged 12, 24, and 36 months were observed interacting with their children while they played during a 60-minute session. For half of that time, a TV program consisting of content designed for older children and adults played in the background. While the TV was on, the quantity of words and phrases spoken as well as the number of new words spoken by the parents was lower than when the TV was off.

Given that child language development and language used by parents are fundamentally linked, the study suggests that prolonged exposure to background TV has a negative influence. Since American children under 24 months have been found to watch an average of 5.5 hours of background TV per day, the effect may be significant.

“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 Pempek. “Although it is impractical and probably not desirable for parents to play with their young child all the time, children do benefit greatly from active involvement by parents during play. Ideally, parents should play with their child without the distraction of TV in the background.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to warn against media exposure for children under two years of age. While foreground media exposure has been the focus of previous guidelines, the potential harm as well of background exposure, a form of media which parents may not be aware has any effect on their child at all, is now noted by recent reports.

Read the full article online here.

The Journal of Children and Media is published by the Taylor & Francis Group, one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks, and reference works.

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1 Comment

  • If you are looking for your next research topic, you might consider the effects of excessive t.v. watching on a marriage. It seems to me that excessive television viewing relates to a decrease in communication across the board, not only among children.