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Guest blog: new research shows TV doesn't affect children's behaviour

(35 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 26-Mar-13 15:03:53

You might have seen reports in the news today about new research which appears to show that watching TV has little impact on children's socialisation and behaviour. Here, the report's author Dr Alison Parkes explains more about what her research does (and doesn't) reveal about how screen-time affects children's development.

Have a read of her post, and let us know what you think. What's 'too much' TV, in your book? Do Dr Parkes' findings fit with your own experience? Do we worry too much about screen-time?

Let us have your thoughts, and if you blog on this subject, do post your URL on the thread.

Zatopek Wed 27-Mar-13 21:10:42

I limited the TV until my eldest was about 3 and I had a newborn to care for. She rarely asked for it.

I never had it on in the day for myself unless DC were napping.

I still try to limit TV but since she started school DD asks for it a lot more. She is also more tired so less interested in playing with her toys.

I sometimes have it on briefly in the mornings before school whilst I am getting myself ready (disastrous as it turns DD into a zombie who then doesn't want to get up from the sofa).

I then have it on after school whilst I am trying to make DCs tea.

TV often makes my DD grumpy
so I only like to put it on if she's grumpy and tired already e.g after school or if it's a rainy day and we can't get outside.

I do think it is important to have long periods of the day when TV is switched off though as I do think children can become over reliant on it as entertainment (see the bored children thread).

My DD hates people talking when she has TV on and gets very annoyed if she misses anything- and I find that quite antisocial- I have to live here too and sometimes I actually need to speak!

Treeesa Wed 27-Mar-13 14:46:27

I always remember that Peter Pan was a favourite film with my children. We had it on a fair few times along with the other Disney classics. On one occasion I'd put a bread knife down on the bread board that was on the middle of the kitchen table. Turned around and was focused on getting something hot out of the over, and while I was doing that my 5 year old, who was sitting at the table waiting for his supper, picked up the knife, jumped down and was waving it around in the air pretending to slice through pirates no doubt.

Children do watch stuff and copy - they are continually learning & soaking up all sorts of stimulation, so ever since then I was even more conscious of trying to stick to age recommendations..

edam Wed 27-Mar-13 13:30:10

My ds is older (9) but probably does watch too much TV/spend too much time on screens of various kinds inc. computer/tablet/DS. It's kind of fine, largely programmes I'm happy for him to see (CBBC esp. Horrible Histories, Doctor Who etc. etc.) but he tries to grab more TV after 8pm, when it is supposed to go off, and will attempt to turn on any old crap (You've Been Framed and so on). So the addictive nature of TV watching for ds worries me a little.

Then there's the slightly less suitable programmes - I went back to a full-time job and came home to discover ds and dh had got into Big Bang Theory, which is hilarious but the dating/sex stuff isn't entirely suitable. I suppose at least it might encourage an interest in science, although equally the core message is being a scientist = makes you less attracive to the opposite sex. (On the plus side, it features female scientists as well as male...)

I can see positive aspects as well - we all enjoy Horrible Histories, discuss the stories, went to the Prom, saw it at the theature, we discuss issues/topics brought up by TV or computer games (playing Medieval Total War has taught him a lot of history, oddly enough, I was surprised he knew that there used to be a country called Prussia...), we talk a lot about false claims made in advertising...

ouryve Wed 27-Mar-13 13:02:07

Finally, someone being sensible instead of reactionary!

My boys never sit zombified in front of the TV. They come and go. DS1 comments on what he sees (he's particularly taking notice of the news now and forming opinions on it, so we spend a lot of time discussing horsemeat, the awful weather, triangular flapjacks etc). DS2 is non-verbal and not interested in many programs, but he picks up on humour and joins in with songs and so on.

We do have to ration DS1's use of technology - he has ASD and ADHD and does become a little too absorbed and struggles with the transition away from it. All the same, he uses his computer creatively, learns problem solving from the games he plays (he was experimenting with Bad Piggies, the other day). DS2 has gross motor delays as well as learning difficulties and we were thrilled when he learnt how to play a game on his leapster, a few months ago. He can't write and won't draw, but his use of the stylus has become quite accurate and he's using it for all sorts of things we had no idea he was capable of.

ISpyPlumPie Tue 26-Mar-13 23:42:07

I limit screen time to the extend that the TV is not on in the background all day, but DS1 watches some in the morning (Alphablocks, Rhyme Rocket etc) and a bit more in the evening (admittedly some of the less educational stuff eg Nick Jnr, Disney etc) as well as some cartoons on youtube. I actually think it's had a positive effect on him overall. He plays lots of imaginative games, many of which have a basis in the programmes he enjoys - he takes the stories and develops them in his own way, as he does with stories we have read together. He also has a really good vocabulary and is incredibly talkative. We discuss what he's watching and he's often inspired to ask questions as he wants to find out more about what he's seen.

I can see that inactivity and lack of interaction are potential risks of excessive screen time, but if TV is used responsibly and as just one of many different experiences a child has access to then it can be benificial too.

Anyway, if children are completely banned from all television they are going to miss out on some wonderful drunken student conversations about kids tv of yore grin.

flame04 Tue 26-Mar-13 21:56:46

Fantastic!! Thank you!! smile

sleepyhead Tue 26-Mar-13 21:52:46

flame04 - see here

sleepyhead Tue 26-Mar-13 21:52:06

Re: ads. I hate them, but when Ds started to want to see programmes on channels other than CBeebies and therefore got exposed to the relentless adverts for crap, watching together was actually a really good opportunity to talk about not being able to get everything you want, and also that adverts weren't true and would make things seem better than they were.

I'm guilty of making up a "little boy whose bought the golden coin maker with his birthday money because he saw it on an advert, and it was rubbish because the advert was a lie, and he was really disappointed" blush and other cautionary tales...

Unfortunately they have to learn the lesson of the hard sell at some point, though later rather than sooner is the ideal and I love V+ for that reason.

flame04 Tue 26-Mar-13 21:50:39

Hi, I'm new. What does DS, CM, DD etc stand for?

MajaBiene Tue 26-Mar-13 21:30:13

It matters more what children do when they are not watching TV imo.

If the TV is on constantly and a child just watches it to the exclusion of interacting with adults, playing with other kids, running around outside, reading books, painting, baking, swimming etc etc then of course it is going to have a negative impact.

If a child watches TV (even a couple of hours a day!) but in the other 8-10 hours they are awake they are active, playing, interacting - don't see the problem.

notcitrus Tue 26-Mar-13 21:22:25

It does seem to affect children in different ways - ds loves telly and it's a great motivator for him, but after 10 min he's bouncing around the room, enacting the show with toys, and often after a while turning it off.

Whereas dn who watches programmes a bit less often is totally different, slack jawed and totally mesmerised, hard to get his attention, and getting no energy burnt off while ds leaps around him. I would limit tv a lot more for him.

I do record programmes so ds watches mainlyy those, and so far age 4 he has an encyclopedic knowledge of animals and sea creatures but has seen tv ads about twice in his life. Suspect this will be harder once he figures out how to turn the tv on as it needs 3 buttons, but he's learnt to read a bit so he can find the recordings he wants - they're in alphabetical order.

Tv can correlate with ignoring your child and not talking to them much, but doesn't have to.

Gemd81 Tue 26-Mar-13 20:49:48

BabyTV channel 623 on sky is a great bedtime soother and a brill distraction for tantrums!

sleepyhead Tue 26-Mar-13 20:44:05

I don't like having the television on as background noise, but that's just personal preference. Dh will tend to have it on whether he's watching it or not so ds has been exposed to both.

I'm far more concerned by there being adult daytime programming (I'm talking about Two and a Half Men, Scrubs, Friends etc rather than This Morning & Jeremy Kyle) on in the background than ds watching CBeebies as I don't think these programmes are suitable for small children. Even having News 24 on as blanket programming can sometimes have things in it that I don't want him to hear.

Ds is good at self-limiting his viewing and I've never deliberately restricted it, no maximum time or anything. He tends to watch the programmes he likes and then switches off and does-something-less-boring-instead (remember that?). I don't think it affects his behaviour but it definitely affects the themes of his play and inspires a lot of imaginative play, just as books do.

Iggly Tue 26-Mar-13 20:18:41

I know what you mean about empty expression - DS's face goes slack when he gets sucked into something! This is the octonauts or mike the knight or some such!

Iggly Tue 26-Mar-13 20:15:41

This study looked at 5 year olds. I was concerned as other research said it was bad for under 2s (not from a behavioural aspect though I think) - do this doesn't address that question.

I still won't let my 16 month old watch tv but my 3 year old can. However I find it does affect his behaviour in the short term eg he gets grumpy and tetchy if he's watched too much and not had a run about. I get that "cabin fever" feeling too!

harryhausen Tue 26-Mar-13 20:07:08

I agree with you too Big.

Mine are now 8 and 6. We've watched Cbeebies (and now Cbbc) together from an early age. I think these channels are great. Horrible Histories and the Cbeebies/bbc bite size website are alone worth the license fee!

As a family we make an event of watching something like Dr Who or Britain's Got Talent.

At school 8 yr old dd is doing exceptionally well. The teacher is impressed with her knowledge, creativity and sense of humour. Dd now watches some programmes just for a sheer 'Brain empty' but I really feel she needs to this.

Ds loves TV and film and many of his toys are tied in with this - Dr Who, Star Wars, Octonauts etc. however I'm impressed with the way he takes the original story/premise and makes up new stories and characters spending hours role playing and being creative.

As long as TV is alongside parent quality time, outdoor activities, social activities etc I can only see it as a positive thing.

issypiggle Tue 26-Mar-13 19:37:41

totally agree with you big,

frying are you saying that the programmes on cbeebies for example aren't suitable for children?

FryingNemo Tue 26-Mar-13 19:13:22

Issypiggle - the programmes they tend to watch are good quality programmes suitable for children.

Doesn't surprise me either. Mine watched quite a bit of telly as pre-schoolers and are just fine now. In fact their teachers often comment on how knowledgeable they are about all sorts of things and try and give me the credit. I'm afraid a lot of it isn't down to me at all but down to the telly watching (although clearly I controlled what they watched and answered questions of which there have been many). It hasn't affected their socialisation or their ability to concentrate. I certainly don't recognise this image of a child with empty expressions on their faces. Mine were never like that. If you chose the right programmes they engage with what is on the television. Of course the other thing is that they don't sit there completely mesmerised because they are used to watching it. They aren't deprived of it so they can take it or leave it. I think the empty expression is probably the result of the restriction placed on it rather than a fault with watching television itself.

That said mine only watched quality children's programmes (no adverts) and documentaries - natural history, history, easier science programmes like Bang Goes the Theory.

montmartre Tue 26-Mar-13 18:44:46

Haven't read the link, so only going off the telegraph article, and i was interested that families lower down the socio-economic scale watch more television. Given that the average outcomes for children on FSM are lower than those for children from families higher up the socio-economic scale, I am wondering if there are any links there? (I'm not implying any causality, just interested in the correlation)

My children don't watch television, because we don't have one- they don't pester for it, because they've never seen us watch it really. We did go to a relative's so they could see the olympic opening ceremony, and the royal wedding, and occasionally we watch a film on dvd on the computer. (About once ever 6 weeks)
They are perfectly sociable, recognised letters/numbers at an early age, read early etc- nothing to do with a lack of screen time, they have well-educated parents who were fortunate enough to have the choice of spending time with them when small.

Thewhingingdefective Tue 26-Mar-13 18:21:21

Not a surprise. Children learn behaviour from examples we set, surely?

When I hear my children shouting at each other and using phrases they have clearly picked up from me, I know it is my cue to behave better. I do fall in to the old 'do as I say not as I do' trap.

Flisspaps Tue 26-Mar-13 18:07:26

I have it on most of the time if I'm not minding little ones.

DD is 3yo, she's very sociable, has learned LOTS that I would have struggled to get across to her and she's quite advanced wrt language skills. I do prefer CBeebies to Disney or Nick Jr though.

Tee2072 Tue 26-Mar-13 18:01:23

Yes. It's lazy parenting. So what?

issypiggle Tue 26-Mar-13 17:56:30

you might see expressionless faces on your children, does make me wonder what you watch with them.

my dd gets involved, and can remember things if you ask her to recall them. she picks up things and regularly asks me questions on things and we sit and learn more from things shes picked up.

especially as we don't just have childrens tv on all day everyday, we have a mixture of things on.

my dd asks for countryfile on a sunday and we record it for her. so please explain to me how that is lazy parenting and going to cause problems, especially if she asking for it

FryingNemo Tue 26-Mar-13 17:45:33

Why type out a reply when cassel has said it for me. I loathe the box. I loathe the empty expressions on my kids' faces when they watch. I see a difference in how my kids behave when they watch tv and that's enough evidence for me.

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