- A study suggests watching TV with children may benefit their brain development.
- Researchers analyzed 478 studies that were published in the last 20 years.
- Early exposure to television may be detrimental to play and language development.
- Screen content that is age-appropriate for children is more likely to have a positive impact.
- The study warns that watching TV shouldn’t take the place of other learning activities, like socializing, even though the right kind of information can be more beneficial than harmful.
- The authors advise reinforcing learning-promoting contexts, like kids watching age-appropriate content under adult supervision and avoiding having a background TV or device on.
A new research examined the impact of passive screen use on a young child’s cognitive development, revealing that, depending on the situation, exposure to screens – whether from a TV or a mobile device – might be beneficial.
The researchers from the University of Portsmouth and Paris Nanterre University in France said that the team analyzed 478 studies that were published in the last 20 years. The research showed that, particularly for young infants, early exposure to television may be detrimental to play, language development, and executive functioning.
Dr. Eszter Somogyi of the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Psychology said, “We’re used to hearing that screen exposure is bad for a child and can do serious damage to their development if it’s not limited to, say, less than an hour a day. While it can be harmful, our study suggests the focus should be on the quality or context of what a child is watching, not the quantity.
A child may find it difficult to extract or generalize information because of a weak narrative, quick editing, and complex inputs. However, screen content that is age-appropriate for children is more likely to have a positive impact, especially if it’s made to promote interaction.
According to studies, a parent or other adult should be present for a child to watch TV so they may engage with them and ask them questions.
“Families differ a lot in their attitudes toward and use of media,” explained Dr. Somogyi.
Dr. Somogyi also stated that the strength and character of TV’s influence on children’s cognitive development are strongly affected by these changes in viewing context. “Your child’s comprehension of the content can be strengthened by watching television with them and discussing what they see, adding to the skills they learn from educational programs,” Dr. Somogyi added.
According to the researchers, coviewing can also contribute to the development of their conversation skills and provide children with a role model for appropriate television viewing behavior.
The study warns that watching TV shouldn’t take the place of other learning activities, like socializing, even though the right kind of information can be more beneficial than harmful. Instead, it is crucial to educate parents and other adults who care for children under the age of 3 about the dangers of excessive screen use in unsuitable situations.
The authors advise reinforcing learning-promoting contexts, like kids watching age-appropriate content under adult supervision and avoiding having a background TV or device on.
“The important take home message here is that caregivers should keep in mind new technologies.” ” Television or smartphones should be used as potential tools to complement some social interactions with their young children but not to replace them,” said Dr. Bahia Guellai, from the Department of Psychology at Paris Nanterre University.
As stated by the researchers, the most important challenge of our society for future generations is to make adults and young people aware of the risk of unconsidered or inappropriate use of screens. This will help in preventing situations in which screens are used as the new type of child-minding, as they have been during the pandemic lockdowns in different countries.
“I am optimistic with the concept of finding an equilibrium between the rapid spread of new technological tools and the preservation of the beautiful nature of human relationships,” concluded Dr. Guellai.
The study report has been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.