TV Coviewing & Language Development

To Watch, or Not To Watch-

It is widely understood that children develop language skills early in life and often through listening to the sounds and intonation of their parent’s voices. Parents play a vital role in language development because so much is learned through the dynamic exchange between infant and parent. But, what happens in homes where televisions are on all day? How does this impact what we know about language development? 

An article recently published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology outlines the influence of infant-directed television programs on the language dynamic between parents and young children (~1 year olds). Researchers at the University of Massachusetts assigned 128 parent-child dyads to three conditions; 1) watch Baby Einstein for 2 weeks 2) watch Sesame Beginnings for 2 weeks  and 3) no assigned TV viewing. All participants then came to the laboratory for three sessions where a number of surveys, and observations were conducted.

There were many interesting results, however the main finding (or takeaway) was that TV coviewing predicted less parent use of language during both the observed ‘free-play’ sessions  and while parents were watching the TV shows with their children.

These results highlight the importance of being mindful when it comes to leaving the TV on in the home. We do not want to miss out on opportunities to help develop the important language skills that are often fostered by the enriching interplay between parents and their children.

Lavigne, H. J., Hanson, K. G., & Anderson, D. R. (2015). The influence of television coviewing on parent language directed at toddlers. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 36, 1-10.

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