The Effects of TV on Children's Communication Skills

At some point, most parents will likely tell their children to turn off the boob tube and head outside to play. Now you can give more than "I'm the mommy, that's why" as a reason. There is evidence that too much TV has a negative impact on a child's communication skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends kids 2 and over should only get one to two hours of quality programs daily, and even that may be too much. A study by Amy Nathanson and Eric Rasmussen from Ohio State University revealed that watching TV can lead to less interaction between parents and children while also having a "detrimental impact on literacy and language skills."

Brain Development

A child's brain is like a sponge -- children are literally soaking in everything around them. Their little brains are incredible, and the development of communication begins long before they say their first word. Child development experts at the Healthy Kids website state that TV or electronic media of any kind can prevent exploring, playing and social interaction, thus preventing learning and healthy physical and social development. While the AAP says that limited television for children over the age of 2 is okay, even the educational programs aren't as educative as real-life activities, and no toddler or preschooler should be inactive for an hour or more. Plus, an active kid makes for a sleepy kid!

Oral and Listening Skills

According to Rosemary Sage, an expert in the development of communication skills, children who watch too much television learn to process images. This does not allow them to think, speak or reflect and hinders a child from developing important language skills through play, exploration and conversation. Every mom needs a personal time out or two here and there, so not watching TV at all is not feasible for most parents. One way to make those educational programs more valuable, encouraging communication skill development, is to discuss the show with your kiddo. Ask questions and help him interpret content. "Why do you think Elmo was sad? What happened to make him upset?" This will get his little brain working and reflecting upon what he just watched.

Social Skills

Be weary of shows or DVDs claiming to improve your kiddo's vocabulary and communication skills. When he is glued to the tube, he is not interacting with others. Kids need face time to interact and build their social skills. While you may give your child a show here and there, don't do it based on the logic that it will improve his communication skills. Authors of "The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids," Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who are also international experts on media and child health and researchers at the University of Washington, found that for every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, babies actually learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who did not watch DVDs. Nothing is better than simply reading a book or interacting with people.

The Negative Effects

When social skills are limited, they put children at a disadvantage in their personal lives and may even affect their work lives down the road. Dr. Vic Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a spokesman for the AAP, states that the research suggests that the rapid scene changes cause babies’ brains to “scan and shift” instead of attend to what they are seeing. It may change the way babies' brains are wired and can be a possible explanation for the rapid increase of diagnosed cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. Be selective of the shows your child watches and limit the time in front of the tube.