When the TV is on and can be heard, young children and their
caregivers use fewer words and have fewer conversations, according to a
new study headed by a University of Washington professor.

The study could provide more understanding about language delays in children and perhaps even brain development.

"We've known that television exposure during infancy is associated
with language delays and attentional problems, but so far it has
remained unclear why," said Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the UW Medical School and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute.

"**This study is the first to demonstrate that when the television is
on, there is reduced speech in the home. Infants vocalize less, and
their caregivers also speak to them more infrequently."**

The study was published in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

It describes a study in which 329 kids from 2 months to 4 years wore
special,small digital recorders on random days monthly for up to two
years. The recorders captured everything the kids said or heard for 12
to 16 hours. They were removed for naps, baths, nighttime sleep and car

A special software program that identifies speech processed the recordings.

The results showed that each hour of audible television was
associated with significant reductions in child vocalizations, the
duration of the vocalizations and conversations. Each hour of TV was
associated with an average decrease of 770 words the child heard from
an adult.

Christakis said the findings have "grave implications for language
acquisition and therefore perhaps even early brain development."
noted that 30 percent of U.S. households have the TV always on, even if
no one is watching.

"There is simply nothing better for early childhood language
acquisition than the spoken and imitated words of caregivers, and every
word counts. Television is not only a poor caregiver substitute, but it
actually reduces the number of language sounds and words babies hear,
vocalize and therefore learn. We are increasingly technologizing
infancy, which may prove harmful to the next generation of adults."

What's a parent to do?

Avoid TV for babies under age 2.

For other children, limit TV time to two hours a day, keep it off
during meals and out of the bedroom. Try media-free days, don't use TV
as a reward and make sure children watch age-appropriate programs. And
watch TV with your kid and talk about what you're watching. (…)

Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer – http://tinyurl.com/losjc4