Television As a Learning Tool?

March 03, 2009 1 min read

In this Ed Week article I look at educational television and the latest efforts to study its impact on children’s literacy development.

Yesterday I came across this study, by the Children’s Hospital of Boston and Harvard Medical School, that concludes “TV viewing before the age of 2 does not improve a child’s language and visual motor skills.”

The longitudinal study of children from birth to age 3, published in the March issue of Pediatrics, didn’t measure any detrimental affects of television viewing. But the researchers say there are other indications that children younger than 2 should not watch television, which is the stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well.

“Contrary to marketing claims and some parents’ perception that television viewing is beneficial to children’s brain development, no evidence of such benefit was found,” Marie Evans Schmidt, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said in a statement.

As I write in my Ed Week piece, though, the preschool and kindergarten sets do learn from educational television. Programs like “Sesame Street,” “Between the Lions,” and “WordWorld,” have been shown to boost some of the precursor skills necessary for learning to read. There are even some efforts under way to help parents, child caregivers, and teachers of young children to use educational programming more formally.

What do you see as the pros and cons of promoting educational television as a learning tool?

(Photo: Theo reads a book to his family on PBS KIDS® series Between the Lions.
Credit: © 2009 WGBH)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.