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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is something I've been wanting to research more lately. Do any of you know of any studies that look at screentime and its effects on child development? I'm looking particularly for studies that aren't dealing with the impact of commercials or neglectful parents using the TV as a babysitter, but rather studies that look at moderate screentime (computer or TV) with commercial-free, age-appropriate, non-violent content. I know that's rather specific so I'm not sure there are any studies that could meet this criteria, but I figured if they had been done someone on MDC would know about it.

Also, what are your thoughts in regard to TV, children, and this criteria:

~Moderate viewing (less than 2 hours per day) *Please note that I don't want to define "moderate" (as that is rather a judgment call) so I'm just saying any amount of time under the AAP's recommendation of a 2 hour maximum

~Commercial-free

~Non-violent, slow-paced content (like a nature program or a slow-paced cartoon, etc.)

~Parent involved in watching program with child

I thought I'd add for the record that we are Waldorfish unschoolers and are essentially TV-free ourselves (just the occasional DVD) so this is more for theoretical pondering than for practical application. Although, I admit that I'd rather not feel guilty when we do watch a short DVD, lol.
 

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I think that, if I were to reintegrate television into my children's lives, that's how I would do it. As it is, we have a television, but I don't think I've turned it on in over a year. None of us are very interested, so we've just stopped turning it on. However, your criteria would very likely be my criteria, except I would say that "moderate" viewing, for us, would be one half-hour programme a day. Maybe one hour-long programme a day when they reach school age.

I don't think television is as harmful as many people would like you to believe, but I do think it's unnecessary.
 

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We've explained to our kids that TV is like corn syrup...it won't kill you but it's not a great idea and should be avoided when the choice can be made. At the same time, it's not entirely unavoidable and small doses aren't going to cause permanent damage. We don't do programmed tv whatsoever at our home. We do rent Netflix and have family movie night once a week. That's it. I don't think we will ever reintroduce programmed tv into our lives, there's enough 'corn syrup' out there without our help. Life is about balance, and the materialistic influences of commercialism are rampant enough that this is one of the best ways we've found to balance it all out for them.

Just my two cents

BellevueMama
 

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You should x-post this in the TV-Free forum and the Waldorf schooling forum for more replies.

I did a research paper (long ago) that looked into the effects of screen time on the brain of young children (and if I can find it I'll link the studies I found) but the gist is: the constant flashing of screens "hypnotizes" the young child causing the child to remain relatively fixed on the screen, at the same time the changing images trigger the "flight or fight" response in the child which often leads to hyperactive activity when all that adrenaline is released once the television is turned off.

That said, I feel that minimum viewing if any is best (my son watches 30 min or less a wk), but the rest of what you describe is the least harmful you could make it.

Two hours is a long time every single day.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by LuxPerpetua View Post

Also, what are your thoughts in regard to TV, children, and this criteria:

Moderate viewing (less than 2 hours per day)
Commercial-free
Non-violent, slow-paced content
Parent involved in watching program with child

My thoughts are that that sounds fine with me. I think it depends on the child and the family though, I'm sure my child would do fine within those parameters.

I know there are a lot of differing opinions around here about this topic, you should get a big variety of responses but I'm guessing mine will be on the more liberal side.
 

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I do not have a link, as this is research that I heard about when a colleauge was asking around where to publish the research.

However, the research was linking screen time to dyspraxia - a motor planning problem. This made so much sense to me, as it is known that young children (0-6) require movement for their overall development - lots of running, jumping, swinging etc. These movements integrate their senses and create the foundations for learning. I also have friends who are OT's working with kids and they have told me that they feel like their job has become to play with children - getting them jumping, swinging etc.

I am sure TV is not the ONLY reason why children are being deprived of movement - it's also not safe to just let your child go out and play and as a culture - very broadly speaking - we value academic achievement to the extent that babies are being 'taught' to read and young kids are put into learning programmes that also take time away from what they need to be doing at that phase of their lives - running, skipping, jumping, swinging, playing.

Back to TV. An interesting perspective is that it is not the content of the TV programme that is as significant - but rather the time spent. 2 hours a day is a lot of time to essentially do nothing. Or to not be doing what needs to be done (yes, playing)

Look into the book The Plug in Drug for more research into this topic. Also Jane Healy has written a book called Endangered Minds... rather dramatic titles, but some interesting ideas put forward and based on research.

I agree that cross posting in the Waldorf subforum is a good idea... looking into the imagination and how TV can affect the development of the imagination.

HTH.
 

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I would like to know this too. I don't know what to do with my 2year old at times. And I don't have a car everyday, not to mention I hate the cold and that is what it is right now. So taking a walk in the cold is a big chore for me. Also some of my family members swear by good TV. One even attributes it to how her son is so smart. And I have to say he is about to graduate and he is really smart (is lowest grade would be a A/A-) and she use to just have him watch all the PBS shows while she do stuff around the house.
 

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I don't see anything moderate about two hours a day. That is over 700 hours a year and a pretty huge hunk of a child's waking life.

My take on the research is that it has been pretty limited and focused on narrower questions like the effects of violence. That's why I'd suggest turning to common sense. What activity would the child be engaged in for those two hours a day - what is getting displaced in their life to support this habit and what is lost in that the process. Given the research isn't great, that essentially means people submitting to this are performing a kind of brain development neurological experimentation. We really don't know what it does to developing brains. I'd rather my kid not be a guinea pig.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Roar View Post
I don't see anything moderate about two hours a day. That is over 700 hours a year and a pretty huge hunk of a child's waking life.

My take on the research is that it has been pretty limited and focused on narrower questions like the effects of violence. That's why I'd suggest turning to common sense. What activity would the child be engaged in for those two hours a day - what is getting displaced in their life to support this habit and what is lost in that the process. Given the research isn't great, that essentially means people submitting to this are performing a kind of brain development neurological experimentation. We really don't know what it does to developing brains. I'd rather my kid not be a guinea pig.
Just to point out, she said "less than two hours a day". To me that is not the same as saying two hours per day, 700 hours per year, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I wanted to just chime in and say that *I* personally do not define 2 hours a day as moderate but am rather using the AAP recommendation of 2 hours as a maximum. I didn't want to actually define "moderate" because I think that can totally vary according to the family, so I thought I would just say "less than the maximum value" as defined by the AAP. This question is actually all theoretical for me, as we are a TV-free family (except when dd is sick, and then I've been known to pull out our small DVD stash).


So, yes, 2 hours is in my opinion too much, especially for younger children, but for older children that would mean a movie or something, which I don't think is unreasonable.

I appreciate all the replies so far. Again, I am wondering if anyone else has any links to any research in this regard? The dyspraxia connection is interesting.

Oh, and we are Waldorfish unschoolers, so I'm very aware of the Waldorf view of this subject, but I also tend to feel that Waldorf has it's own agenda, which, to be honest, means I do not trust Waldorf research in this regard. It doesn't tend to be unbiased.
 

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Personally I don't get the whole "he needs it for background noise" theory that some of my friends use. Their kids watch educational dvds and not mainstream channels but it's still having the TV on all day. When dp is home the tv is on more than it should be but when he is gone (he works on the ak pipeline) we hardly have it on at all. IMHO moderate viewing is ok--under 2 hrs though.

re studies: never looked it up so I can't help with that--sorry.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by LuxPerpetua View Post
Oh, and we are Waldorfish unschoolers, so I'm very aware of the Waldorf view of this subject, but I also tend to feel that Waldorf has it's own agenda, which, to be honest, means I do not trust Waldorf research in this regard. It doesn't tend to be unbiased.

I get you on the research, just suggesting the xposts to forums where more people may have researched it.

*Still trying to dig up that research paper... but with as unorganized as I am - it really could be just about anywhere now
*
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
Back to TV. An interesting perspective is that it is not the content of the TV programme that is as significant - but rather the time spent. 2 hours a day is a lot of time to essentially do nothing. Or to not be doing what needs to be done (yes, playing)

I agree that cross posting in the Waldorf subforum is a good idea... looking into the imagination and how TV can affect the development of the imagination.

HTH.
I wonder if the research would be the same if a child was read to for 2 hours a day--essentially another sedentary activity. I know most children are less likely to be read to for that long but I'm interested in theory here. Do you think this would be problematic as well?

It's also interesting that I sometimes have trouble meshing research with my own life experience. For instance, dh and I both grew up in high TV families, but both of us are highly intelligent, gifted, musical, analytical, and still very creative. I know that I had way too much TV in the under 5 yo category and yet I still developed a very rich inner life and got lots of running around time. However, as I said, we have chosen to be TV-free because we think our lives are more peaceful without the tube. I just wonder if the evidence against TV is more correlational than causational. It's just something I'm pondering on . . .
 

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Also, what are your thoughts in regard to TV, children, and this criteria:

~Moderate viewing (less than 2 hours per day) *Please note that I don't want to define "moderate" (as that is rather a judgment call) so I'm just saying any amount of time under the AAP's recommendation of a 2 hour maximum

~Commercial-free

~Non-violent, slow-paced content (like a nature program or a slow-paced cartoon, etc.)

~Parent involved in watching program with child


DD was TV free until fairly recently, when she dropped her nap (she turned 3 in August). She watches some TV, every day, for quiet time. It killed me at first, b/c although I "needed" the break, I felt like I was being a bad mum. But really, we make good choices: it's all DVD (so, no commercials), we choose the content (and pre-screen), and generally sit with her and interact/talk about what's going on.
It's taught her some great things (she loves musicals, so she's singing/dancing along a lot of the time), and some of the stuff we've shown her has encouraged her to try new food, or ask questions, or do a new craft. I see that it can actually add to what we're doing at home. Sometimes I'm burned out (I have a 3 month old too) and what we watch on tv can give us an idea for an activity.

I'm interested to see some research/data on tv viewing!
 

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Dyspraxia

Quote:
This text shows professionals who are working in early years settings how to understand the specific difficulties a child with dyspraxia may encounter. It encourages them to consider the wider implications of the disorder for both home and school environments. The author demonstrates clearly and practically: how existing classroom conditions and routines can be adapted to encompass the needs of the child with dyspraxia or motor difficulties; the checklists and observation schedules which can be used to give a fuller picture of the problems facing such a child; how to breakdown the basic movement patterns into different competency levels so that progress can be made via appropriate teaching points; and how analysing the movement patterns of a child can reveal their cognitive development.
This last part I find particularly interesting. I guess I should say that I am an OT, not working with children. However, when I studied, I was always convinced that there was a fundamental error in thinking that young children can learn from a screen. Perceptual development theories show that this is not possible,Young children learn through movement - a kinesthetic experience. Only once their bodies 'know' do children start to explore concepts in 3D and then finally in 2D (screen). From what I am finding out there are no short cuts and little children just do not learn from screen in the same way that an older child/adult can.

Now of course there are other reasons for children to watch TV/DVD besides learning. It gives parents a *very* much needed break and can be a wonderful distraction for getting unpleasant things done. I guess my pet issue with TV is that it needs to be recognized for what it is and not passed off as an enriching experience for a young child.

About reading, and this also being a sedentary occupation.Firstly, I am not sure there are many children under 6 who spend significant amounts of time reading out of their own volition. This would be very unusual.
Secondly, and this is my personal opinion, reading requires a level of participation that TV does not require. I have no way to 'back this up', but intuitively I am pretty sure that reading is a very different activity from watching TV. And like a PP pointed out, you would be hard pressed to find a child buried in books for hours every day day after day....

I will try and track down the dyspraxia link with screen time and see how they defined screen time for the different ages and what periods of time were being spoken about.

Last word. As an OT, I am interested in the Occupation of people, adults and children. From an Occupation perspective, I find it fascinating that TV/screen has replaced so much of what children used to do. Again, I do not think that screen time can be blamed for all the evils in the world, but I am cautious about the time spent in front of the TV (although I personally *love* my computer - so that is a very tough one)

ETA. I think the point I was trying to make is that as a parent I am asking myself why I think 'x' is good idea or a bad idea. If I ask myself why TV is a good idea (or ask others) the answer I kept getting was that is teaches children things. This I am confident is not true for young children.
And with older children, perhaps it can teach facts (like discovery channel) - but I am not sure that the same facts cannot be learnt at the library.
Then there is the whole sports thing. DH is very keen that DS will be part of the sports watching culture in the family (funnily enough DH is not part of it himself) - I just do not know.... I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by ema-adama View Post
Now of course there are other reasons for children to watch TV/DVD besides learning. It gives parents a *very* much needed break and can be a wonderful distraction for getting unpleasant things done. I guess my pet issue with TV is that it needs to be recognized for what it is and not passed off as an enriching experience for a young child.
I totally agree with you! Although we are TV-free at this point, when dh was finishing his Ph.D. last year (working 90+ hours per week) I did put on a DVD to get a break, or trim dd's hair (she hated having her hair cut), or to get her to eat and sit still (she's dealt with some sensory issues with eating and the only way she would eat sometimes was to have something--whether TV or the computer--to take her mind off of it). But it was essentially for entertainment and nothing else--although I think that entertainment itself can be enriching and educational in it's own way. But I also think there are other activities that are more educational and more enriching than TV/computer. I like the analogy someone above made about corn syrup.

I'm interested in what you are saying about children learning through movement. At one level I totally agree and understand, but not fully I think. What I'm trying to say is that I know dd loves to run around, climb, jump, etc., and she does that a LOT, but physical experience isn't the only way she learns things. She's very verbal and very intellectual, for instance, so we talk, sing, and read a lot, and she seems to learn as much that way, too. My guess is that I'm misunderstanding the theory here. I'd love it if you could elaborate more on this. I'm very interested in knowing more about the relationship of movement to learning, and at what age does that change (if you know).

Quote:
About reading, and this also being a sedentary occupation.Firstly, I am not sure there are many children under 6 who spend significant amounts of time reading out of their own volition. This would be very unusual.
Secondly, and this is my personal opinion, reading requires a level of participation that TV does not require. I have no way to 'back this up', but intuitively I am pretty sure that reading is a very different activity from watching TV. And like a PP pointed out, you would be hard pressed to find a child buried in books for hours every day day after day....
This is something I wonder about because my intellect says the same thing but my experience doesn't follow through (or at least that I can tell). DD loves to read and we usually spend an hour or more a day reading and have since she was little. Maybe it's how we've done TV in the past (small bits here and there, active participation, etc)--I'm not sure--but dd seems to be more interactive and thoughtful while watching TV or playing a computer game than reading. That could also be that she likes to nurse while reading so her mouth is too occupied to talk
. The few times we've watched TV she has not hushed the whole time--it's constant thought and jabber. Now it may be that she's just an odd duck. I know she has a little friend who watches a good bit of TV and he zombifies the whole time, so perhaps this is an individual thing. I just wonder then if it's hard to generalize about the effects on TV. Hmmm.

I'm really intrigued by this discussion, which on one hand I find kind of funny because I don't like TV myself and, as I said, we plan on keeping TV out of our family life as much as possible. I think what has fascinated me is that the more I've thought about this issue the more complex I seem to find it.
 

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I'll try to answer your first part, or at least try to offer some help about where to go for more info. But first I have to give a spiel on why these studies are problematic. The studies I can think of off the top of my head are mostly about slightly younger kids. You could look at the authors, what depts they are in, what journals are publishing this material, and the keywords for their articles, and probably a few google scholar searches would turn up more scholarly articles on the topic.

Are you affiliated with an academic institution? If not, it may be hard to get free access to online scholarly journals in which academic studies (esp recent ones!) are published. Though you might be in luck b/c this is a topic with wider appeal, so some studies may be published and presented for the public as well. I'm a PhD student in a communication department and as such have come across some articles about children and screen media- but its NOT at all my area of study (though I'm also a mom of a tv- and dvd-free 4 year old, but it was a decision we made as a family, not one I made as an academic, ykwim?).

One problem with quantitative studies of "media effects" is that its *very* hard to disentangle all the factors and measure the effects on any particular child. Many factors you've mentioned complicate matters- like, are the parents watching with the kids, what else is going on in family life, basically the bigger picture of the child as a whole person. The "testing" is often done in a laboratory setting, so, obviously not very realistic to normal conditions, or else it is based on parents reporting of children's viewing habits and behavior, which would present a different set of problems with measurement and aggregating data.

Its hard to know the causal relationships here- for example: say a study finds an association between television viewing and poor attention skills in children. BUT, 1) does tv cause poor attention skills, or 2) perhaps parents of kids with poor attention skills resort to more tv to manage their kids because the kids can't sustain an activity for an age-appropriate length of time, or, 3) maybe parents with poor attention skills also have kids with poor attention skills, and those families also have tv going more often to provide external stimulation, but tv-viewing wasn't strictly a cause or effect, just an associated behavior, or 4) the study size was too small, or the researchers were already biased about what they would find, or there are factors they weren't considering that were stronger predictors of attention, etc. (just to be clear, I'm not suggesting any of these things are correct, just rattling off the top of my head some ways you could interpret a correlation between quantitatively documented poor attention skills and tv-viewing).

Also, this kind of research often doesn't account for the fact that screen media is not a strictly "one way" phenomenon- the viewers have to decode or interpret the meaning, and thus its not necessarily uniform in how it is "read" by the viewer.

Here is a link to an article in Time magazine that reviews an academic study that made a bit of a splash, looked quantitatively at Baby Einstein and found it actually delayed language development:
http://www.time.com/time/health/arti...650352,00.html

If you do a google scholar search on the lead authors in the study referenced in that TIME article, you will come up with a lot. You can even look at who cites their articles if you want to find things that may refute or challenge them.
Frederick Zimmerman, Dimitri Christakis

Here is a link to an article with a similar point:
http://abs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/48/5/505

An article I found personally kind of interesting which just got forwarded to me as part of some seminar I wasn't even in: "Young Children's Use of Video as a Source of Socially Relevant Information" published in Child Development, Vol 77 No 3 (2006). Here is the text of the abstract, which might be enough for your purposes: "Although prior research clearly shows that toddlers have difficulty learning from video, the basis for their difficulty is unknown. In the 2 current experiments, the effect of social feedback on 2-year-olds' use of information from video was assessed. Children who were told ''face to face'' where to find a hidden toy typically found it, but children who were given the same information by a person on video did not. Children who engaged in a 5-min contingent interaction with a person (including social cues and personal references) through closed-circuit video before the hiding task used information provided to find the toy. These findings have important implications for educational television and use of video stimuli in laboratory-based research with young children."

Hope this helps. There is a lot out there, I'm guessing your challenge will be sifting through it, not finding it, once you are looking in the right places.

-Emma
 

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I don't like to regulate things if education and other means work, and I've tried to handle this in that way, and it has worked very well here (though my daughter is very very active and sitting still for the TV has never really been her thing, so I don't know how well it would work for others.)

First, I have explained to her that TV is to her brain what candy is to her body. It is OK to have a little here and there occasionally, but it can't make up her diet. She's 6 and is old enough to understand that kind of analogy now.

Second, I "woo" her away from the TV by coming up with other things to do. I buy craft activities and art supplies like CRAZY (on sale and at the dollar store often) and I am not afraid of her making a mess. The parents I know who let their kids watch too much TV often do it because otherwise their kids make messes. IMO if you let your kids do messy things, they will watch less.

Third, I let her play outside by herself. I live in a very safe and close-knit neighborhood where that is safe, so I'm lucky there. But in nice weather, my daughter spends almost all day outside. She watches almost no TV at all in the summers. She'll watch a little in the fall and not recognize the tv shows. The problem with me having to be outside with her when she plays is that she only would get to go outside on my schedule. Again, with her age and level of trustworthiness (which is very high) I know she won't wander where she isn't allowed, and with our safe neighborhood and small town with almost no crime whatsoever, I'm luckier than a lot of people there, but that's part of what keeps her away from the TV.

Fourth, I model. I personally don't like TV so she seems me reading, sometimes using the computer obviously (though she doesn't do a lot of that either), cooking, cleaning, etc. Not watching TV.

Fifth, we have ONE tv in the house. There is no going off to another room to watch. It's available, but it has to be shared.

She is watching more TV because I'm pregnant and I don't always feel well enough to "woo her away" from it. But she's still no where near 2 hours a day! That seems like an awful lot. Our TV is usually off until after dinner, and then my husband likes to watch a few shows, and she'll ask for a turn sometimes, which is where her TV watching generally comes in.

It didn't even occur to me for her watch TV when she was a baby, and when she was a toddler I think maybe she watched for a half hour every few days if I had a job I had to do and couldn't have her right near me for.
 
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