Educational TV has positive effects on toddlers, preschoolers

MUMBAI: A new study in the US suggests that educational television programmes are successful in broadening young children's knowledge, affecting their racial attitudes and increasing their imaginations.

A study has been published in the November issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Researchers Dimitri A. Christakis, Michelle M. Garrison and Rupin R. Thakkar, MD, of the Child Health Institute, conducted a systematic literature search and identified a total of 376 articles dealing with children and television. Of these, 12 met the criteria of being a controlled trial. The 12 studies were conducted between 1973 and 2000 and focused specifically on television content viewed by children under age six and its impact on learning, racial preference, aggression, pro-social behaviour, self-regulation and imagination. None of these studies looked at infant television viewing or examined the content of videos designed for

The research found that there is evidence to suggest that educational television programs, such as Sesame Street and Mister Rogers can aid in the acquisition of general knowledge plus improve overall cognitive knowledge among young children.

There is also evidence in the literature that children's imaginative play can be positively affected by television content. Furthermore, there is evidence that educational television programming that emphasizes diversity can improve children's racial attitudes.

On the negative side, there is evidence that television viewing can increase a child's display of aggression. Children who watch aggressive programmes and cartoons with lots of violence can be more likely to engage in aggressive behavior than those that do not.

Dr. Christakis says, "The bottom line is that content is key -- high-quality educational programming can have a positive effect on children under age six. However, much more research is needed. It was disappointing that there are so few rigorous controlled trials of something that is so important and so prevalent."

The study's researchers also stress the importance of AAP recommendations that parents avoid letting their children under age 2 watch television and that parents exert caution -- such as setting limits on TV viewing, helping children develop media literacy skills to questions, analyze and evaluate TV messages, and taking an active role in their children's TV viewing -- for children over age 2.

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