Educational TV Research Findings

In keeping up with educational news, two articles about educational TV caught my attention and I wanted to share them with you.

An article in Education Week titled Studies Support Benefits of Educational TV for Reading summarizes several research projects by stating "While learning experts surely agree that too much television and inappropriate content can have detrimental effects on children, the right kinds of programs can set them on the path toward reading."

Research is now emerging and providing critical information on the most effective approaches for combining learning with a television program.  Debra L. Linebarger, the director of the Children and Media Lab at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia says “We know that we can successfully merge learning and appeal to children, but it takes work.”  Linebarger is studying the impact of several popular shows on public television, including “Between the Lions” and “Super Why!”

The article goes on to reaffirm the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that televsion viewing should be avoided altogether for children under the age of 2 because it can be detrimental to their brain development but the AAP also recognizes that some television programming has benefits.  Along these lines, a second article titled Want a Smart Baby?  TV's Not Going to Help, from CNN reports on a study published in the journal Pediatrics that challenges the need and usefulness of baby educational videos.

Researchers from Children's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School monitored more than 800 children from birth to 3 years of age and found that baby programs such as BabyGenius or Baby Einstein not only do not make babies smarter but also have no cognitive benefit to babies and toddlers.  This study supports the findings of a study published in August that also found no benefit from baby DVDs, stating that infants who watched the videos understood fewer words than those who did not watch them.

As an educator, I find it interesting to talk with my peers about their opinions and perceptions of media use, particularly TV, for children.  Most educators seem to fall into two categories regarding TV and media use:  those who will not use any TV or media at all or those who embrace it wholeheartedly.  Both of the above articles state the case for selective and appropriate use of TV and media for children.  In other words, for children 3 years and older it is not just how much TV a child is watching, it is more about what they are watching.