Television has been accused of leading to behavioral problems in children practically since its inception, being associated with seizures, ADHD and violent behavior. One of the biggest concerns in recent years has been its effect on children’s ability to concentrate, allegedly leading to poor academic performance and attention disorders. A study presented at the annual British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section sought to examine just that, not only finding no evidence of any adverse effects from TV, but some added benefits in completing other tasks as well.
The study included 41 three and four year olds, subjecting them to a slow and fast paced version of Postman Pat, a stop-and-go animated series. After, they were asked to build blocks and given comprehension tests about the content of the show. Surprisingly, not only did all ages comprehend the two versions equally, but both the three and four year olds scored slightly better on the building block task after watching the fast-paced version of the show.
“There is a widely held belief that television watching in young children is responsible for behavioral problems, attention deficits, and developmental challenges. But there is little research that has addressed this to date for young audiences,” said Dr. Alexandra Lamont, lead author of the study.
Although the younger children gave less attention to the TV clip and put less effort in the building block task than the older group, both groups completed the task slightly faster after the fast paced clip than they did with the slow version. Considering that the pace of TV shows and advertisements have been steadily rising in recent years, the results are crucial to assuaging some of the hysteria surrounding TV and kids’ academic performance or mental health.
Fast-paced programming and flow states
Possible reasons for the boost in problem solving skills could be due to the fast paced programs accelerating cognitive processes. The authors noted that the children paid more attention to the faster program; increased attention and concentration on a specific task is the recipe for “flow states,” marked by an intense degree of focus, cognition and joy in some cases. The additional attention requirement (and thus, engagement) of the fast paced clip of Postman Pat (as opposed to the slower version) could be inducing a flow state in the children or at least temporarily put them in a state of accelerated cognition.
“In this very complex area there are clearly still more questions to answer, but we are providing some evidence to counter the supposed harm that comes from the increasing pace of technology for young children,” said Dr. Lamont.
Although this study is by no means a giant green light for kids’ TV time, it does help to reopen the conversation on ways that media can help sustain attention in children with learning disabilities. Recognizing the role that media and attention issues play in recovery, Sovereign Health offers increasing levels of access to media and Internet with the patients’ corresponding level in the program. If you would like more information, feel free to browse our reviews section or contact us today.
Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer