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Archive for April, 2009

TV and Videos for Children Under Two May Not Influence Skill Development

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Exposing infants and toddlers to television does not improve their language and visual motor skills at age 3, but does not appear to harm them either. In the study, “Television Viewing in Infancy and Child Cognition at 3 Years of Age in a US Cohort,” researchers looked at the amount of time 872 children spent watching television or videos from birth to 2 years of age, then assessed their language and visual motor skills at age 3. When researchers adjusted for other factors that could influence these skills, such as maternal education and breastfeeding, the effect of television appeared neutral.Dr. Marie Evans Schmidt, one of the authors of this study, offers more insight on the study and its results:CP: What was your reasoning behind doing this study?MS: In our prospective longitudinal cohort, we tested whether TV viewing in the first two years of life had any measurable impact on children’s  vocabulary and visual motor skills test scores at age 3.CP: What surprised you the most as you did the study?MS: We were most surprised that we didn’t find any effects of TV viewing in infancy on cognition (once relevant socioeconomic/demographic variables were controlled). We had hypothesized that hours of TV viewed would have negative effects on childhood cognition scores. The cohort was large and statistically we had enough power to detect a relationship if one was present, so, again, I think we were mostly surprised that hours of TV viewed did not have a negative effect on cognitive test scores.CP: Surprisingly (to me), it seemed as if children viewing Sesame Streetwere at a bit of a disadvantage over those who watched programs likeArthur, which is actually for older children, and yet studies haveshown that children who watch Sesame Street have improved overallscores in longitudinal studies. What is your take on this?MS: We didn’t look at content in this study. I think you might be referring to another study, most likely Linebarger and Walker (2005) . They found the results you describe. Linebarger and Walker (2005) have speculated that the reason they found positive effects on language from Arthur but not from Sesame Street is because Arthur follows a linear narrative whereas at that time Sesame Street did not (they now incorporate more narrative content in Sesame Street). The longitudinal study you are referring to, I think, is one by Dan Anderson et al (2001), which showed that Sesame Street viewing in preschool (age 3 +) was related to higher high school grades; the Linebarger study was looking at Sesame Street viewing between ages 6 and 30 months, I believe, so different age groups are represented in the two studies. I suspect that is why you find the difference.CP: When parents go to show media to their babies, are there certaintypes and styles you can recommend (please feel free to pull inexperience other than this report).MS: I don’t recommend that parents show media to their babies, especially the little ones. No studies have found positive effects of baby videos, and some studies have found negative effects, so I see no benefit, to the child, of watching those videos. Once children reach the second half of infancy, say 15 months to 2 or so, I think parents can try some educational TV, such as Elmo’s World, or Barney (curriculum based shows designed for toddlers). However, I would keep TV to a minimum at this age, since research overall has yet to find clear benefits. Once children reach preschool age (3+), I recommend age appropriate educational, curriculum based programming, with no commercials, if possible. These days, there are a lot of great educational programs for children. And, of course, I always recommend books!In general, I recommend parents choose content very carefully, as most research suggests what children watch is more important than how much. For babies, I would limit TV as much as possible, as there are no clear benefits to TV viewing in infancy. For older children, I recommend limiting the amount to no more than 10-11 hours a week, as high levels of TV viewing have been associated with obesity and sleep disturbances. I also recommend keeping the TV off in the home when no one is watching and limiting children’s exposure to adult TV as much as possible. Other research I have done, with Dan Anderson, suggests that TV in the background may disrupt children’s focused attention during toy play.

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LUNAFEST is Looking for Producers of Films by…for…and About Women

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

LUNFEST is looking for amateurs, students and aspiring indie filmmakers and producers involved in films aligned with our by…for…about women theme and are especially thrilled to receive animated, documentary, international and comic pieces. Films are viewed by over 25,0000 people and screened in over 150 venues across the country. There is no limitation based on the year of production and winning filmmakers are awarded $1000 cash! The postmark deadline for this year’s films is April 30, 2009.Please visit their website for more information about LUNAFEST or submit a film. Feel free to contact them at (510)859-2214 or at [email protected] with any questions.

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