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TV and Language Development

April 5, 2010


In our last article, we began a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of TV for our children. This month and in future months, we will look at some individual areas of development in relationship to television, starting with language development. We know that the more parents and caregivers speak to young children, the better their language development. We also know that a child’s language development by the age of three, is an excellent predictor of a child’s language by age nine. Finally, we know that a child’s language development by age three is an excellent predictor of school success. Children who understand and use the vocabulary words of their native language, and have a firm command of understanding and using it by age three, fare much better in school.

Given this information, how valuable is learning language through the TV. A July 2007 study published in Science Daily, indicates exposure to language via television is insufficient for teaching language to very young children. To learn new words, children must be actively engaged in the process with responsive language teachers. Parents and caregivers are those responsive language teachers because we are the ones who talk with and interact with our children.

Article Photos

Mary Rockey

A recent article entitled “Unplug Your Kids”, states: “We've known that television exposure during infancy is associated with language delays and attentional problems, but so far it has remained unclear why," said Dr. Dimitri Christakis. In a recent study, he was the first to demonstrate that when the television is on, there is reduced speech in the home. Infants vocalize less and their caregivers also speak to them less infrequently.

Other important studies published within the last two years indicate: • Children under 12 months who watched TV for more than two hours a day were six times more likely to have delayed language skills. • For every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch baby DVDs and videos. • Turning down the TV can actually help your child find their voice faster. • Children under the age of three who are allowed to watch too much television have below-average reading abilities by the time they are six. • Children who watched baby DVDs between seven and 16 months knew fewer words than children who did not.

While it seems to be a fixture in everyone’s home, perhaps it is time to turn it off and play. Play benefits children and language development. Given the choice of TV on and TV off, it doesn’t seem like there are many advantages for having it on so very much, in our homes.

Mary Rockey, Ph.D., BCBA is the Director of Pupil Service at Randolph Central School.



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