Monday, August 30, 2010

TV & toddlers

AIR's recent keen interest with animated movies and cartoons made me curious on what they actually see and absorb.

Extracted from this site, it tells of what our kids, from toddlers to adolescent, see and absorb from the 'idiot box'.

Infants (children up to 18 months old) can pay attention to an operating television set for short periods of time, but the attention demands a great effort and infants are usually more interested in their own activities. Even when they do pay attention to the television, infants likely miss most of what adults consider to be program content. They experience it primarily as fragmented displays of light and sound, which they are only intermittently able to group into meaningful combinations such as recognizable human or animal characters.

No research has focused specifically on how violent content affects infants, but there is some evidence that infants can imitate behaviour from television when that behaviour is presented in a simple, uncluttered and instructional manner.

Children do not become full-fledged "viewers" until around the age of two-and-a-half. As toddlers, they begin to pay more attention to the television set when it is on, and they develop a limited ability to extract meaning from television content. They are likely to imitate what they see and hear on television.

I noticed AIR , at 19 months, already immitating or try to say what he hears. From numerous repeats of 18 episodes of Upin & Ipin, he's learnt quite a few words. From watching Barnyard over the 3-day-weekend, he's learnt words from the mouse, Otis the cow, Manny this chick and a couple more characters. He dances with the Barnyard animals and well, for now its heartwarming to see that he's enjoying it.

But it may be becomming too much, because now when he wakes up, on weekends, he will ask us to put on the show for him. He already knows how to switch everything on by himself. He can spend 3+ hours (2 repeats back to back) of Barnyard and only gets bored (he walks out and looks for toys of books to read). In the evening, he will ask for Barnyard again.

The viewing patterns children establish as toddlers will influence their viewing habits throughout their lives. Since toddlers have a strong preference for cartoons and other programs that have characters who move fast, there is considerable likelihood that they will be exposed to large amounts of violence.

Under normal conditions, parents probably do not need to worry too much about their infants being negatively influenced by television, although they might want to limit their exposure to violence or other portrayals it might be dangerous for an infant to imitate.

Limiting exposure to this kind of TV content is especially wise with toddlers, who are even more prone to imitating what they see on television. Another highly influential action parents can take for toddlers is to examine and regulate their own viewing behaviour, since toddlers are highly influenced by their parents' viewing habits.

OKlah, at this moment I'm sure no violence yet, except for the scene where the coyote attacks the chicken coup and the cow (Ben and later Otis) fights them off.

Although toddlers do not understand a great deal of program content, creating educational programming using such features as animation, children's or women's voices on the sound track, and simplified movements and camera work will likely win them as loyal viewers. A habit of watching educational programs (as opposed to cartoons) will reduce their exposure to violent content and make it more likely that they will watch and benefit from educational television later on, as preschoolers.

For preschoolers, effective programming would include the use of vivid production features and "child-directed speech" (simple sentences spoken slowly, referring to objects that are actually being shown on the screen, and with repetition). These features will improve their attention and understanding and can be used to highlight important features of program content, such as critical plot events.

So, alternating with the more educational progs would be good. And I'm glad that AIR can sit still (more than 10mins good enough for now) and watch these too...

What about your toddlers or pre-schoolers? How do you handle their TV habbits?

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