A recent study in the journal Pediatrics has received a lot of attention lately. The study titled “The Immediate Impact of Different Types of Television on Young Children’s Executive Function” was conducted at the University of Virginia and the goal of the research was to determine “whether a fast paced television show”, specifically SpongeBob SquarePants, would impact 4 year old children’s self regulation and working memory (executive function).
The study was relatively small with only 60 children enrolled . Each group was divided into three groups. One group watched fast paced TV, another group watched a PBS cartoon and the third group was given paper and crayons for drawing. Each group participated in their activity for 9 minutes.
Following their activity, the children were given “tests” of executive function which included building an object with certain specifications, following directions on oral tasks as well as tests of delayed gratification.
The authors found that children who watched the fast-paced television cartoon performed significantly worse on the executive function tasks than did the children in the other 2 groups.
I am not sure how much you can take away from this small, but interesting study, other than the fact that TV does influence our children. In this case it affected their behavior in the short term after just 9 minutes of SpongeBob. But SpongeBob should not be thought of as “evil”. This is just an example of one of the many fast paced shows today’s preschoolers are watching. Even Sesame Street has become more fast paced over the last 30 years.
The bigger message to me seems to be that preschoolers need more time at play. Creative play with crayons, paper dolls, building blocks and puzzles is far superior to watching TV for several hours a day. Remember, “TV” watching includes screen time with a DVD, or playing a game on an iPhone or watching a video on the iPad.
The most important thing you can do for your child is limit screen time from an early age. It will have a positive impact on your child’s working memory and attention. It’s a good place to start.
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.