Young children who watch fast-paced, fantastical television shows may become handicapped in their readiness for learning, revealed by researchers in a recent study.
University of Virginia psychologists tested 4-year-old children immediately after they had watched nine minutes of the popular show “SpongeBob SquarePants” and found that their executive function ? the ability to pay attention, solve problems and moderate behavior ? had been severely compromised when compared to 4-year-olds who had either watched nine minutes of “Caillou,” a slower-paced, realistic public television show, or had spent nine minutes drawing.
Researcher said there may be two reasons that a fast-paced and fantastical show would have a negative effect on the learning and behavior of young children.
The children in the study, whether they watched the television shows or drew, were tested immediately afterward for how well they solved problems and followed rules, remembered what they had been told, and were able to delay gratification.
Researcher advises parents to consider the findings when making decisions as to which television shows to allow their young children to watch ? if they watch television at all.
Researcher Lillard and her co-author, graduate student Jennifer Peterson, said that 4-year-olds are in an important development stage of their lives and that what they watch on television may have lasting effects on their lifelong learning and behaviors. Their study, however, focused on the immediate effects.
“Young children are beginning to learn how to behave as well as how to learn,” Lillard said. “At school, they have to behave properly, they need to sit at a table and eat properly, they need to be respectful, and all of that requires executive functions. If a child has just watched a television show that has handicapped these abilities, we cannot expect the child to behave at their normal level in everyday situations.”
She recommends that parents use creative learning activities, such as drawing, using building blocks and board games, and playing outdoors to help their children develop sound behaviors and learning skills.
“Executive function is extremely important to children’s success in school and in everyday life,” Lillard said. “It’s important to their psychological and physical well-being.”
Source: University of Virginia, USA