Turn it off…

Photography: Loren Stow

Increase the quality of your interactions with your child and the amount you talk to you child by simply turning off that TV that is on in the background.

Many studies have been done on the effects that watching TV has on children’s health and development, but how does having the TV on in the background, even when it isn’t being actively watched, affect our interactions with our children?

Well, in addition to wasting our ever-precious electricity resources, two studies have found that an unwatched TV on in the background has a very measurable negative effect on our children.

The first study, conducted by Dr Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute in America, looked at 329 children aged between 2 months and 4 years in their own homes. What the study found was that parents and children virtually stopped talking when the television was on, even if they were in the same room or doing an activity together.

Through special devices that the children and parents wore around their necks that counted the number of words spoken an hour, they found that with the television off, adults spoke on average 941 words per hour. When the television was turned on in the background, that average dropped dramatically to only 171 words per hour. The children also spoke much less.

Dr. Christakis elaborates, “Parents may not realise how little they interact with children when the TV is on. A mother may think she’s engaging with her baby because they’re both on the floor playing blocks. But if the TV is on in the background, the two of them talk much less.”

Interestingly, mothers spoke about half as much as they usually do when the TV is off, but fathers were more severely affected, being practically silenced by the TV.

The second study, published in the journal of Child Development cited a study done by researchers from the University of Massachusetts in America. 50 children were studied, aged between one and three, each of whom was accompanied by a parent. A one hour session was created where the parents had to interact and play with their children. For half an hour they were in a playroom without a TV and for the other half an hour they were in a playroom with a TV on the background showing an adult game show programme.

The researchers observed how often the parents talked to their children, how involved they were with their play and whether the children and parents responded to each other’s questions and suggestions.

When the TV was on the background, the researchers found that the quality of the interactions dropped, and specifically that the parents spent 20% less time talking to their children. Having a TV on in the background resulted in parents that were less interactive, responsive and attentive to their children.

The good news?

We’re not saying never watch TV again… but you can instantly increase the quality of your interaction with your child, and talk to them so much more, by simply switching your TV off when it’s not being watched.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that folks!

Words: Loren Stow
when we know better… we do better

*Practica Parents: probably one of the most important things about the programme and the way that it is designed is to promote one-on-one interaction with your baby. There is nothing more important to your baby’s development and well-being than being an active parent.

If you would like to be emailed when a new post is done, please email lizette@practicaprogramme.co.za

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