Watching TV together with a young child can be beneficial for their cognitive development, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth say that while young babies’ excessive exposure to television can be detrimental to play, language development and executive functioning, watching age-appropriate content can also have its benefits.
These benefits may include reinforcing their learning and improving conversation skills through co-viewing with an adult.
Dr Eszter Somogyi, from the university’s department of psychology, said: “We are used to hearing that screen exposure is bad for a child and can severely damage their development if it is not limited to, say, less than an hour. up to date. While it can be harmful, our study suggests the focus should be on the quality or context of what a child sees, not the quantity.
“Weak narration, accelerated editing, and complex stimuli can make it difficult for a child to extract or generalize information.
“But when screen content is age-appropriate for a child, it’s likely to have a positive effect, particularly when it’s designed to encourage interaction.”
The research, published in Frontiers In Psychology, analyzed 478 studies published over the last two decades and concluded that context was crucial in determining how beneficial screen use might be.
Dr. Somogyi explained: “Families differ greatly in their attitudes and use of media.
“These differences in viewing context play an important role in determining the strength and nature of television’s impact on children’s cognitive development.
“Watching television with your child and elaborating and discussing what you see can help improve their understanding of the content, reinforcing their learning during educational programs.
“Shared viewing can also contribute to the development of their conversation skills and provides children with a role model for appropriate behavior in front of television.”
The authors of the research point out that in the last 30 years, the number of television programs aimed at babies increased and the screen time of children aged 0 to 2 years doubled between 1997 and 2014.
The authors recommend reinforcing contexts that promote learning, such as viewing age-appropriate chosen content, viewing with adult supervision, and not having a second device or TV screen on in the background.
Dr Bahia Guellai, from the psychology department at Paris Nanterre University, who was also involved in the research, said: “The important ‘take home message’ here is that carers need to be aware of new technologies.
“TV or smartphones should be used as potential tools to supplement some social interactions with your young children, but not to replace them.
“I believe that the most important challenge of our societies for future generations is to make adults and young people aware of the risk of inconsiderate or inappropriate use of screens.
“This will help prevent situations where screens are used as the new kind of childcare, as it has been during the pandemic lockdowns in different countries.
“I am optimistic about the concept of finding a balance between the rapid spread of new technological tools and preserving the beautiful nature of human relationships.”