Thursday, 12 December 2013

Want More Tolerant Kids? Keep Them Away from the TV

If you want to give your child a head start in life, do them a favor and keep the TV turned off as much as possible. And at the very least, make sure you do not put a TV in your young child’s bedroom. It may seem harmless, and perhaps even educational, to let your child watch some TV, but as the latest research shows doing so may actually hinder their cognitive development. TV Makes It Harder for Preschoolers to Understand ‘Theory of Mind’ Theory of mind is an important milestone in social and cognitive development, which children typically reach during their preschool years. A developed “theory of mind” allows children to understand differences between mental states like beliefs, desires, and pretend, while also understanding that others’ beliefs and desires may be different from their own. A more developed theory of mind leads to better social relationships. Even at a young age, this developmental milestone allows for more cooperation and sensitivity among children, and less aggressive behaviors. The research is quite clear that keeping children engaged via face-to-face conversations, imaginative play or reading is far better for their emotional and physical health and development than watching TV. It might even make them more tolerant of others’ beliefs as they get older. Indeed, new study of children aged 3 to 9 years found that kids with TVs in their bedrooms, and those exposed to more background TV, performed more poorly on theory-of-mind assessments.1 That is, they had a lower understanding of different mental states, including other people’s beliefs and desires. Children May Have a Hard Time Deciphering ‘Feelings’ from TV Shows It’s thought that children may have difficulty understanding what a person is thinking or feeling when watching them on TV. On the other hand, reading stories in books is beneficial because it often explains how a person is feeling and why. Having conversations in-person also help children to understand such distinctions.2 This might explain why the researchers found that children whose parents watched TV with them and explained what was happening scored better on the theory-of-mind assessment. So if you are going to let your child watch TV, make it a point to have a conversation about it… but do be sure to limit your child’s ”screen time” regardless. The research is quite clear that more than two hours a day of screen time is associated with increased emotional and behavioral difficulties. According to one study:3 Children who spent more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer were 61 and 59 percent more likely to experience high levels of psychological difficulties, respectively Children who spent more than two hours a day watching TV, and also failed to meet physical activity guidelines, were 70 percent more likely to experience high levels of psychological difficulties Source: DR,