About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Short-term effects of television on 4 year olds

I have been thinking about the claims of some teenagers and young adults I know, who are adamant that they are able to concentrate fully whilst recieving multiple different sensory inputs at one time. For example, a teenager who claims they can write their homework history essay at the same time as watching a DVD, having a text conversation with a friend and also watching occasional you-tube videos. I was looking for scientific evidence regarding whether this can truly be possible - for example, have their neural circuits developed differently through being exposed to multi-media input from an early age?

I was not able to find anything convincing; in fact the converse is true. Here is a paper which might interest readers of this blog, examining the effects of nine minutes television viewing on measures of attention and concentration in four year olds. Sixty children were randomised to one of three conditions: 9 minutes 'stimulating television', where there was a lot of action, a lot of changes in screenshots, a lot of excitement (although the paper does not name the programme used, other sources suggest it may have been Spongebob Squarepants!). The second condition was 9 minutes 'educational television', namely a documentary following the normal life of an American boy. The 'control' condition was being allowed to draw and colour freely with crayons for 9 minutes. Four well established tests of attention and concentration were then applied by investigators who had been blinded to the conditions to which the child had just been exposed.

For each test of attention and concentration, there was a clear deterioration among the children who had been exposed to the stimulating programme, and slight evidence towards a beneficial effect of drawing. The documentary seemed to cause neutral effects.

What I found remarkable was that this was not a paper examining the long term effects of watching large amounts of television, but rather the short term effects of a short period of viewing. It made me once again thankful that we keep viewing to a minimum - I've posted a bit more about this recently.

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