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View Full Version : Television as an educational tool for preschoolers


hamishritchie
04-09-2009, 05:01 AM
I recently had a discussion with a friend regarding her decision not to let her two year old watch any television.
Her argument was based on a number of studies she'd read stating that some specific children's programs which boast a "wide range of developmentally appropriate products for babies and toddlers" are actually of little or no benefit to a child's social or intellectual development and offer no advantage for later in life.

I have found a number of papers which demonstrate that a moderate amount of educational television, such as Sesame Street, does provide some advantage over a similar amount of entertainment programming, but I've found nothing that compares the benefit to children of a light diet of educational programs against no television at all.

While I agree that television is a diabolical baby sitter, and provides a poor substitute for real life interaction with a child's friends and family, I would very much prefer that my friend's kid grows up knowing who Cookie Monster is.

Does anybody know of any credible papers or articles which argue my point that a moderate and selective amount of television is preferential to no television at all?

Xema
04-09-2009, 07:29 AM
Sorry, no cites.

But this strikes me as challenging because of the need to address the question of what the child was doing in the time that would have been spent in front of the TV - something a study would have a hard time controlling for.

dracoi
04-09-2009, 11:26 AM
I don't have a cite, but I read an article that claimed to be based on research showing that interactivity was the key. If you used an educational video with a child the same way you'd use a picture book or blocks with letters and pictures, then the video was beneficial. (You'd be asking questions, pointing to things, saying words, etc.) If you plunked the kid down in front of the tube so that you could go watch your soaps in the other room, then educational content provided no benefit over regular programming.

Given that TV watching is one of the few predictors of scholastic ability (that is, the more you watch, the worse you do) I think it's foolish to build that habit up when they're toddlers. You'll have enough trouble keeping them away from the TV when they're older without encouraging it yourself.

Doug Bowe
04-09-2009, 01:00 PM
[QUOTE=dracoi;11021362]I don't have a cite, but I read an article that claimed to be based on research showing that interactivity was the key. If you used an educational video with a child the same way you'd use a picture book or blocks with letters and pictures, then the video was beneficial. (You'd be asking questions, pointing to things, saying words, etc.) If you plunked the kid down in front of the tube so that you could go watch your soaps in the other room, then educational content provided no benefit over regular programming....(snip)
/QUOTE]

http://pbskids.org/

http://www.pbs.org/teachers/

PBS sites suggest that this view is correct.
The various educational kits provided by our local PBS outlet all request that an adult be present to watch and discuss what was seen.

WhyNot
04-09-2009, 01:13 PM
While I agree that television is a diabolical baby sitter, and provides a poor substitute for real life interaction with a child's friends and family, I would very much prefer that my friend's kid grows up knowing who Cookie Monster is.
Since I can't answer your primary question, I'd like to address this side concern: don't worry about it. Between books and pajamas and toys and signs in store windows, and some strange childhood zeitgeist, the kid is not going to grow up ignorant of Cookie Monster even if she keeps him on a television free diet. My daughter knows all about Spongebob and his cohorts, and has never seen a single episode. She knew Dora and Boots and Diego before ever seeing a single episode - in fact, even now that I offer it as an option, she doesn't like the show at all, but loves her Dora Leapster 2 game and her Diego bathtub toy. (Both given to her by people who aren't me.)

dangermom
04-09-2009, 01:59 PM
I agree with WhyNot that the child will not be ignorant of Cookie Monster. Besides which, Sesame Street isn't even directed at 2-year-olds anyway. It's more for the 3-5 crowd.)

While 'educational' TV is better than plain entertainment TV, and interaction is better than none, real life and real things trump any video. Almost anything the kid does instead of TV, short of sitting in a corner staring at a wall, is going to be better.

I would also warn you against assuming that anything labeled 'educational' or 'brain-building' is actually any such thing. Baby Einstein, etc. is just video; it has no particular value. People have figured out that parents will spend a lot of money on 'educational' products. Real life, real objects, real outdoor play, real interaction with people will always be better for a child. (Think of it like those rat experiments; a rat in a cage with some toys has more neurons than a rat in an empty cage. But a rat in an actual environment has far more neurons than the rat with the toys.)

Your friend is being a thoughtful parent. Yay for her!

Sorry, I have no exact citations. Go to the library and read the books about TV and children, educational products, and advertising to parents/children. That's where I got my info.

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