Want your toddler to learn new words? Turn off the TV

Filed under: Development/Milestones: Babies, In The News

While toddlers may be entertained by the rapid images flashing in front of them on the smooth television screen, they are not learning new language from watching their favorite shows---even if the shows are deemed educational.

Marina Krcmar, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University is the author of a new study published in June 21 issue of Media Psychology, which evaluates the relationship between toddler language acquisition and television shows such as "Teletubbies" that target very young children.

"With the tremendous success of programs such as 'Teletubbies' that target very young children, it has become important to understand what very young children are taking away from these programs," Krcmar said. "We would like to think it could work, that Teletubbies and other programs can teach initial language skills. That is not true."

Krcmar's research focused on whether children ages 15 -- 24 months learned new words when the words were presented as part of a "Teletubbies" program, compared with their ability to learn the new words from an adult speaker in the same room with them. Krcmar found that children younger that 22 months did not accurately identify an object when taught the new word by TV, although they were easily able to do so when the word was presented by an adult standing in front of them.

The Academy of Pediatrics to avoid television for children under 2 years old, and these results confirm this recommendation. The bottom line? If you want your tot to learn new words quickly, turn off the TV and engage him or her in a conversation.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.