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The Freeview research report “Viewtrition”, which came out in November, has continued to show that 8 out of 10 parents still believe that television has a positive effect on their children’s development. This runs contrary to much of the current research by many medical experts.

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that, in a study of older children, those youngsters who spent several hours watching TV or using a computer were found to be significantly less fit and healthy than those who did not.

In another study by Professor Christakis of the University of Washington in Seattle, it was found that children who watched a lot of television as toddlers did not perform as well on tests to check reading and memory skills.

Fiona Macrae, writing in the Daily Mail, quotes the Professor’s real fears for infants who are put in front of the TV: “The weight of existing evidence suggests the potential for harm and I believe that parents should exercise due caution in exposing infants to excessive media.”

There are a growing number of educationalists and medics who worry about what Professor Christakis sees as the “negative effect” television has by exposing “children to flashing lights and quick scene changes that can over stimulate the developing brain.” This worry has led to many head teachers advising parents not to allow children to watch television or computer screens just before going to bed.

Exposing “children to flashing lights and quick scene changes can over stimulate the developing brain”

Ms Macrae also warns parents of Professor Christakis’ advice, to exercise extreme caution when using “educational dvds such as ‘Baby Einstein’ and ‘Brainy Baby’” because there is “no scientific evidence that these are effective.” Interestingly, she notes: “In response to litigation, ‘Baby Einstein’ has recently modified its claims and de-emphasised the educational components.”

Dr Tanya Byron, writing in the Freeview – Viewtrition parent’s “guide to quality TV for kids,” says that it is important to teach “your little ones to become discerning and healthy TV viewers and to balance time watching the television against time spent in other healthy and enriching activities.” Her main message seems to be: “Television is best enjoyed and has greatest impact when shared and discussed.”

The debate continues . . .

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