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Your Child’s Brain on Technology: Television

Posted: Fri, May 02, 2014 | By:

By Hank Pellissier

How does TV affect your child’s developing brain? Does TV rot the brain of a child glued to the screen more than an hour or two a day, as many parents fear? (One to two hours is the maximum dose recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group discourages all media use for children under 2.)
According to brain scientist Daphne Bavelier, the effects of television depend completely on the quality of the TV kids watch. In her study, “Children, wired — for better and for worse,” Bavelier argues that content quality varies as widely as the nutritional value of different foods. Many television programs foster cognitive gains, she reports, while others decidedly do not. For example, Dora the Explorer is associated with an increase in vocabulary and expressive language skills; Blue’s Clues and Clifford the Big Red Dog offer similar benefits. Teletubbies, however, is linked to decreases in both.

Just say say no — to SpongeBob?

Here are two more programs for your do’s and don’ts list: Sesame Street is consistently associated with school readiness, vocabulary size, and numeracy skills. Effective educational shows like this can, according to Bavelier’s report, “exemplify how to resolve social conflicts and productively manage disagreements and frustration.” MRI scans find that viewers of the show enhance their intraparietal sulcus brain region (associated with mathematics abilities) and the Broca’s area, which correlates to verbal abilities. On the change-the-channel side, University of Virginia researcher Angeline Lillard determined that SpongeBob SquarePants and other fast-paced cartoons hinder abstract thinking, short-term memory, and impulse control in 4-year-olds.

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