Taylor & Francis Newsroom

, Oxford.

Is background TV harming your toddler’s language development?

We already know how important parent input is in developing children’s language skills, and that a reduction in child-directed language could have a negative impact on their language development. New research published today suggests that the presence of background TV is a significant factor in reducing this vital input, affecting both the quantity and quality of language spoken by parents to their children.

In the study, published in the Journal of Children and Media, parents of toddlers aged 12, 24, and 36 months were observed interacting with their children while they played during a 60 minute session, with a TV program on in the background for half of that time.  Background TV is defined as content designed for older children or adults. While the TV was on, the quantity of words and phrases as well as the number of new words spoken by the parents was lower than when the TV was off. However, the length of the phrases spoken was not affected.

Given that the language used by parents is so intrinsically linked with child language development, the results of the study suggest that prolonged exposure to background TV has a negative influence. In light of findings that American children under 24 months watch an average 5.5 hours of background TV per day, the effect may be substantial.

Author of the study, Tiffany A. Pempek, comments “Our new results, along with past research finding negative effects of background TV on young children's play and parent-child interaction, provide evidence that adult-directed TV content should be avoided for infants and toddlers whenever possible. Although it is impractical and probably not desirable for parents to play with their young child all of the time, children do benefit greatly from active involvement by parents during play. Ideally, parents should play with their child without the distraction of TV in the background.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently upheld their recommendation discouraging media exposure for children under 2 years of age. While previously the guidelines focused on foreground media exposure, recent reports have noted the potential harm of background exposure as well, a form of media which parents may not be aware has any effect on their child at all. Further research is needed to ascertain if any form of media which disrupts parent-child interaction will have a similar effect, such as mobile device use, reading newspapers, or speaking on the phone.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS
When referencing the article: Please include Journal title, author, published by Taylor & Francis and the following statement:

* Read the full article online:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17482798.2014.920715

About Taylor & Francis Group

Taylor & Francis Group partners with researchers, scholarly societies, universities and libraries worldwide to bring knowledge to life.  As one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works our content spans all areas of Humanities, Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Science, and Technology and Medicine. From our network of offices in Oxford, New York, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Stockholm, New Delhi and Johannesburg, Taylor & Francis staff provide local expertise and support to our editors, societies and authors and tailored, efficient customer service to our library colleagues.

For more information please contact:

Jenny Ellis, Marketing Co-Ordinator, Education
Email: Jennifer.Ellis@tandf.co.uk