Background TV is distracting at playtime

Filed under: Babies, Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Big Kids, Development/Milestones: Babies, In The News, Media

A new small study has found that television, even when only on as background noise, has a "small but real" affect on the way young children play. Researchers found that when playing in a room with a TV on -- they used Jeopardy, a program they thought the children would have little interest in -- children tended to stop playing and watch the TV now and then, shortening the intensity and length of their play. This finding is in conflict with former studies that found that young children don't pay attention to TV that they don't understand.

When my older daughter was only a toddler, she used to ask us to turn off the TV while she played. She said once, "It makes me watch it," meaning that she couldn't take her eyes off of the TV when it was on. It surprised me, because, like those old studies, I figured if she didn't understand it she wouldn't watch. Now we have a no-TV rule during the day, unless we're sitting down to specifically watch a program. A lot of parents really like to have television on as background noise during the day, however, to listen to as they go about their activities.

So will TV's influence on your child's play affect them long term? This study isn't broad enough to prove that, but plenty of research has gone into how TV affects children. KidsHealth does a good job of rounding up some of that research, and offers tips to parents who want to limit TV time in their home.

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