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Mary Lou SLP  
#1 Posted : Sunday, March 23, 2014 6:30:25 PM(UTC)
Mary Lou SLP

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Joined: 1/21/2008(UTC)
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Location: Colorado

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I wrote this article for people who have signed up to receive monthly articles from me, and I thought you might like to read it, too.

No doubt you have already heard proclamations about limiting your young child’s exposure to television. If you’re like me, you want to know the reason why such a recommendation is made. It’s easy to discard such pronouncements as “the ideal” and that some TV time must be just fine. If you wonder at all about what is best for you and your young child, you may appreciate hearing some results of current research.

One study I was just alerted to was completed in 2009 by D. A. Christakis, M.D., at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Christakis has researched many aspects of children’s “screen time.” One aspect that is very important to me, as a speech-language pathologist who guides parents to learn methods to promote their children’s speech and language development, is the effect that television has on children learning to talk. In his study, Dr. Christakis found that adults spoke about 941 words per hour to their children when the TV was off. When the TV was on, some of the spoken words became inaudible to the child, and the words from the parent that the child heard were reduced to about 170 words per hour. 170 words are just 18% of 941 words. That’s a loss of 82% of valuable language input! Multiply that number over many hours in a day, many days in a week, many weeks and months in the first two years of life, and that child has really lost out.

Not only were the adult’s words reduced, there was also a reduction in the number of words the child spoke, as well as a reduction in the length of each utterance and the number of conversational turns. Verbal turn taking has been found to be a crucial element in a child’s ability to learn language and to practice speaking.

Now for the kicker. It was found that 30% of households in the study, in the U.S., have the TV on all of the time. That’s nearly one-third of all households! All of that background noise, passive listening, and distraction from real interaction between people in the household can be devastating to the young child whose brain needs to soak up as much information as it can in the first few years of life.

I have seen current recommendations for NO TV time for children from birth to 2 years of age. Yes, I know that a TV program can be a great “babysitter” so a parent can take a shower or do some other task, but the harm caused to cognitive (intelligence) development, attention development, language development, motor and sensory development, and emotional development can’t afford this “hit”.

TV or talk. Talk or TV. I know the one I support. I urge you to look into the matter for yourself and make a conscious and conscientious decision about which is better for you and your child.
Mary Lou B. Johnson, M.S.,CCC-SLP

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