Friday, September 27th, 2013
Videos that aim to help children learn may be entertaining, but their educational value is under dispute by a group of researchers who have concluded that face-to-face social interaction goes further toward language development than any video program can. More from Time.com:
It’s that dynamic interaction between the infant and her caregiver — a back-and-forth that static videos and television programs can’t provide — that is critical for efficient language learning. And a group of researchers from the University of Washington, Temple University and the University of Delaware explain why.
The scientists studied 36 two-year-olds who were randomly assigned to learn verbs in three different ways. A third of the group trained with a live person, another third learned through video chat technology like Skype, and the final third learned by watching a pre-recorded video of a language lesson from the same person.
Their results, published in the journal Child Development, showed that kids learned well in person and in the live video chat, likely because both scenarios allowed for an interaction between the child and the teacher, allowing the youngsters to be more responsive and therefore retain more from their experience. The children using the recorded videos, by contrast, did not learn new vocabulary words by the end of the 10 minute learning and testing task.
The findings confirm previous work that connected live conversations with better vocabularies among young children, but add another layer of understanding about why one-on-one interactions are so important to a developing brain. Nerve connections responsible for language building requires repetition and reinforcement, which can help to strengthen the correct and appropriate words or sounds and discard extraneous or inappropriate ones. It’s not that educational programming or DVDs are harming young minds; it’s more that they aren’t maximizing the infants’ ability to absorb and learn and pick up words and verbal skills more efficiently. So parking a child in front of screen for a few minutes isn’t going to hamper his ability to talk, but interspersing those videos with some one-on-one time engaging in conversation could help to speed along the learning process.
Image: Child watching a video, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
American kids and teens are watching slightly less television, and getting slightly more exercise, than they were 10 years ago, according to a new report published in the journal Pediatrics. Unfortunately, the findings don’t also report a decline in childhood obesity rates, but they are an encouraging sign nonetheless. More from NBC News:
Using surveys conducted in middle and high schools, researchers also found increases in the number of days youth reported having breakfast each week and in how often they ate fruits and vegetables. Those trends have corresponded to a leveling off in obesity rates, but not a decline, the study showed.
“I would like to believe that all the public health efforts focusing on increasing physical activity and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are having an effect, because that seems to be a pattern,” Ronald Iannotti, the lead author on the study from the University of Massachusetts Boston, said.
“The fact that (obesity) is leveling off, that’s a surprise and a major change from the steady increase that we’ve seen,” Iannotti, who worked on the study while at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md., said. “This is great news.”
He and co-author Jing Wang analyzed surveys given to a nationally representative sample of students in 6th through 10th grades in 2001-2002, 2005-2006 and 2009-2010 as part of the Health Behavior in School-aged Children study. Each survey period included responses from between 9,000 and 15,000 adolescents.
The researchers found “encouraging” trends on measures of most diet and lifestyle habits.
For example, the number of days each week that kids reported being physically active for at least 60 minutes increased from 4.3 in 2001-2002 to 4.5 in 2009-2010, with similar trends among boys and girls. Likewise, youth reported eating breakfast on three school days each week on the first survey and 3.3 days on the last.
The average number of hours students spent watching TV each day fell from 3.1 to 2.4, with drops in both weekday and weekend viewing.
Frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption also rose slightly – although it remained at less than one daily serving of each, on average – and consumption of sweets and soft drinks fell.
However, the proportion of survey participants who were overweight or obese, based on their own height and weight reports, did not decrease, the researchers wrote Monday in Pediatrics.
Image: Kids playing outside, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 12th, 2013
Toddlers who watch an extra hour of television daily–”extra” meaning an hour more than the two-hour maximum for children two or older recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics–may suffer consequences when they enter kindergarten. The effects of the extra TV time, according to a new study by researchers by the University of Montreal, include diminished vocabulary and math skills, attention and concentration issues, physical prowess, and likelihood of victimization or bullying by classmates. ScienceDaily.com has more:
“This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks for poor motor skills and psychosocial difficulties, like victimization by classmates,” [Professor Linda] Pagani said. “These findings suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP discourages watching television during infancy and recommends not more than two hours per day beyond age 2. It seems that every extra hour beyond that has a remarkably negative influence.”
Pagani conducted the study to discover the effect of television viewing prior to kindergarten. He said, “Much of the research on school readiness has focused on how kindergarten characteristics predict later success. Kindergarten entry characteristics predict long-term psycho-social adjustment and economic characteristics like income and academic attainment. Being innovative, my focus has been to examine what predicts kindergarten entry characteristics. Adding further originality, I also wanted to focus on neglected yet crucial aspects of school readiness such as motor skills, which predict later physical activity and reading skills, likelihood of being “picked-on,” which predict social difficulties, and skills at linked to doing what you are supposed to be doing when having been given instructions, which are in turn linked to attention systems that are regulated by the brain’s frontal lobe development.”
991 girls and 1006 boys in Quebec whose parents reported their television viewing behaviour as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development.
Pagani noted that the standard deviation is a commonly used statistic tool that tells us what is within a normal range compared to the average. One standard deviation from the average daily amount of television viewed by the toddlers in this sample (105 minutes) is 72 minutes. Some of the children who participated in the study were two or even three standard deviations away from the average, and their kindergarten indicators were correspondingly worse than those who were one standard deviation away.
This study only looks at the most common form of screen time, which is in the home. However, it may be an underestimate because many child care settings use television as an activity during care giving.
Image: Boys watching TV, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
Parents who are concerned that their children watch too much television often try different approaches to solve the problem, from removing televisions from bedrooms and living areas to setting strict time limits on viewing. But the best predictor of whether kids will have healthy TV viewing habits, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, is whether parents have good habits themselves. More from Time.com:
According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, what’s most important in children’s viewing habits is how much TV (or DVDs or online entertainment) parents watch. The researchers interviewed 1550 parents with children 17 or younger about both their own and their children’s screen time, and when possible, they also asked the adolescents about how much television they watched.
The amount of TV the parents watched predicted the kids’ screen time, and this association was even stronger than that linked to parental restrictions on TV viewing, where the TVs were placed in the home, or how much television parents and children watched together.
On average, parents spent about four hours a day in front of a screen, and those who watched more media had kids who watched more. In fact, every hour that parents viewed TV was linked to nearly an additional half hour of screen time for their kids. There were some differences according to age, however. Restrictions on viewing had some effect for kids aged six to 11, and adolescents reported watching an hour more a day than their parents estimated.
For over a decade, pediatricians have been recommending less screen time for kids (a maximum of 2 hours a day for non-educational TV) because heavy viewing is linked to obesity, inactivity, poor sleep, and poor academic achievement. “Lots of parents are concerned about how much TV their kids watch,” says Amy Bleakley, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania. “We wanted to raise awareness of how their own media habits may be affecting that of their kids.”
Image: Child watching TV, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that children who watch quality, educational programs on television are better-behaved than those kids who watch television of varying moral and educational value. The new research will be welcome news to parents who struggle to minimize their kids’ screen time despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups. More from Time.com:
“There is no question kids watch too much television at all ages,” says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, lead author and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development
at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “Part of the message is not just about turning off the television but about changing the channel.”
Kids are sponges who absorb their surroundings; it’s how they learn to develop the proper behaviors and responses to social situations. And they are not only parroting their parents and other family members, but mimicking behaviors they see on television or in movies as well. So Christakis, who has conducted extensive research on the effects of screen time on child development, explored ways to influence what shows children watch so that they’re more apt to imitate quality conduct. “We’ve known for decades that kids imitate what they see on TV,” he says. “They imitate good behaviors and they imitate bad behaviors.”
In the study, he and his colleagues tracked 617 families with kids between the ages of 3 and 5. Half of the families agreed to go on a media “diet” and swap programming with more aggressive and violent content for educational, prosocial shows that encourage sharing, kindness and respect, like Dora the Explorer, which teaches how to resolve conflicts, and Sesame Street, which models tolerance for diversity. The other families did not change their children’s viewing choices.
To help parents in the first group to choose appropriate shows, they received a program guide that highlighted prosocial content and learned how to block out violent programming. (The parents were so delighted with the guidance that many asked to continue receiving program guides even after the study ended.) They were also urged to watch alongside their kids. The researchers tracked what the children watched and also measured their behavior with standard tests of aggressiveness and sharing responses six months and a year into the study.
At both testing periods, the children in the first group watched less aggressive programming than they did at the beginning of the study compared with children in the control group. Both groups of kids upped their screen time a bit, but the first group saw more quality programs while the control group spent even more time watching violent shows.
Six months after the study began, the children who increased their prosocial viewing acted less aggressively and showed more sharing and respectful behaviors compared with the control group. They were more apt to compromise and cooperate than children who didn’t change their viewing content, and the effects persisted for the entire year that the study lasted. “There is a connection between what children watch, not just in terms of violence but in terms of improved behavior,” says Christakis, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.
Who got the biggest boost in behavior? Low-income boys. “They derived the greatest benefit, which is interesting because they are most at risk of being victims and perpetrators of aggression,” he says.
Image: Child watching TV, via Shutterstock
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