Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Does television slow language development in babies?

A news item on the New Scientist website caught my eye tonight. In a nutshell, some research published in 2007 (here) indicates that overuse of DVDs marketed as educational could slow language development in very young children.

This research has been dragged back into the spotlight by a court case (originally reported in the New York Times). Allegedly, the researchers are refusing to hand over their raw data and methodology to the creators of Baby Einstein so that they can re-run the study to audit it.

I am puzzled by the researchers' seeming reluctance to agree to this request. Once research has been published it is in the public domain and is subject to scrutiny by others. They should expect other workers in the area to check their methods and comment on findings. If their data are robust then they have nothing to fear. They should not be afraid of copyright infringement or being beaten to a scoop because their work is published, they were first.

As a work-at-home mum, I am not proud to admit that I have allowed my children to watch hours of television. It is necessary just so I can get some work done. However, I firmly believe that by regulating what they watch and by interacting with them (shouting replies and singing along to programmes), I have enabled them to make the most of their experiences. My son's early counting skills were definitely helped by watching Numberjacks and my some of my daughter's first words were "Tigger" and "Daisy" (from In The Night Garden).

And we all benefit from a few hours relaxing in front of the telly, don't we?!

Note this interesting news report from October 2009 (also in the NYT).

1 comment:

  1. I don't know very much about how the world of science works, but I do tend to worry when I see research, for example, undermining breastfeeding that has been carried out by a baby food company. It does look like a conflict of interest. If the researchers hand over their data to Baby Einstein, does that not create a similar conflict of interest.

    I think to be honest, that parents are given too much to feel guilty about. I think that sensible, appropriate tv watching does no harm. My wee one has watched a fair bit in her time, but she was talking from the age of 9 months and had a vocabulary of 100 words by the time when she was a year old. That was at the same time as my health visitor warned me that if I didn't stop breastfeeding her, she would have problems with speech.


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