The most recent issue of Informal Features, an occasionally published newsletter circulated among television researchers interested in what their colleagues are doing, mentions several recent and soon-to-be-completed studies on children and television.
The Center for Research in Children's Television at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education has completed a study of 9-to-12-year-olds' recollections of their preschool viewing of Sesame Street for the Children's Television Workshop.
The researchers surveyed 105 fifth and sixth graders in Arlington, Mass. Among their findings:
All of the students recalled having watched the show and 89 percent said they watched it every day.
The children remembered characters more than academic content. They remembered the Muppets better than other characters. (Eighty-nine percent remembered Big Bird; 72 percent remembered Bert and Ernie.)
The 9-to-12-year-olds said they stopped watching the show when they reached the first or second grade, but 92 percent of the group with younger brothers and sisters reported watching it with them still.
Ronald G. Slaby, an associate professor of education who worked on the study, warned that the results may reflect an eagerness on the part of the children to please the adults asking the questions.
Other major studies regarding Sesame Street, including some completed in the early 1970's by the Educational Testing Service, found that the program was "successful in accomplishing specific educational goals," Mr. Slaby said, adding that "what it taught, it taught well."
Mr. Slaby is also conducting a study of the effects of reduced television watching on children's behavior at home and in the supermarket--particularly the impact that commercials might have on children who accompany their mothers on shopping trips.
He has been collecting data for this study since 1978, he said, and expects to complete his findings by fall.
One major difference between this study and previous efforts, Mr. Slaby said, is the use of an objective observer who does not know at the time of observation which of the subjects have actually been deprived of television.
Daniel Anderson, a researcher in psychology at the University of Massachusetts, is analyzing data collected from 334 families for a study of home television viewing.
To gather his information, the researcher placed automated time-lapse videotape equipment in the homes of 106 families for a 10-day period. The equipment, which began recording when the television was turned on, logged 6,000 hours of family viewing.
Mr. Anderson's first project will be to examine where people sit relative to the set, information which could be useful in assessing concerns about the effects of television on vision and on radiation exposure.
The Illinois State Board of Education has dropped a plan to turn Pac Man into Tax Man. Board members had been considering a plan to raise revenue for the state's schools by taxing profits of video games, but they have now abandoned the idea, partly because they were unable to obtain clear information on the amount of profits earned by operators.
A staff member told the board that gross receipts nationwide from video games exceed $5 billion. But he also said he was less successful in determining receipts--and potential tax revenues--from the games in Illinois.
"I honestly don't know where to go for more information, because no one wants to talk about it," Robert Leininger told the board, adding that many industry officials hung up on him when he asked about their profits.