Quality vs. Quantity: TV Guidelines for Kids (cont.)

But developmental psychologist Deborah L. Linebarger, PhD, says it's premature to advise against all television for babies. Linebarger, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, tells WebMD, "There's not enough evidence to make a recommendation either way. To save parents' sanity, we should give them some cautions but go with the moderation approach."

Keeping an Eye on Content

In Linebarger's view, content is much more of a concern than quantity. Kids are better off watching moderate amounts of educational programming than even small amounts of shows with inappropriate content, she says. "It's not whether to let them watch. It's what you let them watch."

Linebarger's own research indicates a connection between certain educational TV programs and enhanced language skills in very young children. "We followed kids from 6 months of age to 2.5 years, tracking language development as measured by vocabulary and expressive language use. Depending on the show characteristics, the relationship to language development is positive or negative. At least for babies, they need a very linear narrative with a lot of repetition within the episode and very clear sequences and story patterns."

According to the study, which appears in the American Behavioral Scientist, watching Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues, Arthur, Clifford, or Dragon Tales was associated with greater vocabularies and higher expressive language scores at 2.5 years old. But the study involved only 51 children, and Linebarger stresses that it's too soon to say whether the TV programs were responsible for the improved language skills. "I think this research highlights areas where television could be OK for young children, but it's imperative to choose appropriate television and use it in moderation."

Published Jan. 31, 2005.

SOURCES: American Behavioral Scientist, January 2005. Pediatrics, April 2004. The American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Psychological Association. WebMD Medical News: "Toddler TV Time Can Cause Attention Problems." Jane M. Healy, PhD, educational psychologist; and author, Your Child's Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence. Susan Buttross, MD, FAAP, spokeswoman, American Academy of Pediatrics; and chief, division of child development and behavioral pediatrics, University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dorothy Singer, EdD, co-director, Family Television Research and Consultation Center, Yale University. Deborah L. Linebarger, PhD, developmental psychologist; and assistant professor, University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005 5:34:25 PM