Here’s yet one more reason to turn those televisions off: A new study has found that both infants and their caregivers talk or vocalize less often when a television is playing audibly in the background.
Thanks to Science Daily for picking up on this report from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. It describes a two-year study by a research team led by Dimitri A. Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington’s medical school.
To track sounds in the home, Dr. Christakis and his colleagues equipped 329 children between the ages of 2 months and 4 years with specially designed vests that held recorders in their chest pockets. The infants wore the vests on random days for up to two years, for 12 to 16 hours at a stretch.
Whether they were actively watching the television or not, adults spoke an average of 770 fewer words for every hour the television was playing. The children also made fewer utterances during those times.
The implications are obvious. Research has long shown that the more words that children hear, the better they are at speaking and reading when they get to elementary school. Here’s what the researchers advise: Talk with your child while you’re watching TV, turn off the set during meals, set “media-free” days, or, better yet, keep the TV off altogether when children under 2 are in the house.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.