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Television ‘can help children with language’

Saturday 12 Nov 2011
Too much TV does not “dumb down” young children but can improve their language skills, researchers have concluded in a landmark study of the first generation of “digital natives”, The Australian reports.

Television can help children with language

The research, based on data from an Australian government study of Australian children, questions the conventional wisdom that TV hinders children’s learning.

The lead author, Michael Bittman of the University of New England’s school of behavioural, cognitive and social sciences, said the research conflicted with conventional advice to keep toddlers away from the TV.

“All the literature indicated that, and the American Paediatrics Association advice is, don’t use any television when the child is under two,” he said.

“It was regarded a bit like sunlight and skin cancer – they said that if you get a lot of TV it inhibits your print literacy.

“But what comes out of our study is that it’s the parenting that makes the difference.”

The researchers say their findings indicate that among preschoolers, perhaps any dose of media is safe provided the protective factors are all in place.

These factors include a stimulating home environment, sufficient family income and parental conversation and supervision.

“The children most at risk of delayed language acquisition are those from low socio-economic backgrounds whose parents are not involved in their child’s use of media,” the paper says.

Professor Bittman said the research found that TV inhibited language and literacy development if children had a TV in their bedroom. “There is no support for the electronic babysitter,” he said.