World News and Trends: TV and your child's brain

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TV and your child's brain

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Researcher Christakis indicates that TV might overstimulate and permanently rewire (or miswire) the developing brain. "The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch television. Other studies have shown it to be associated with obe-sity and aggressiveness" (ibid.). The government-sponsored study can be found in the April 2004 issue of Pediatrics .

Dr. Christakis' findings support the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations that children two and younger should not watch TV. Why? "The newborn brain develops very rapidly during the first two to three years of life. It's really being wired during that time" (ibid.). The fast-paced visual images typical of most TV programming affect the brain and create the potential for serious attention deficit problems.

Electronic media purveyors realize that TV viewers have become habitualized to fast-paced visual images, and to keep the viewer glued to the set they must change onscreen visual images rapidly.

Otherwise other distractions will win the day.

Try this experiment yourself: Watch the evening news and time the number of seconds that separate new and/or moving images, small or large. You'll quickly see why there's little wonder that some are concerned about the potential of rewiring a two-year-old's brain beyond what is considered safe and normal.

On balance, Jennifer Kotler, assistant director for research at Sesame Workshop, which produces educational children's television programs including Sesame Street , questioned whether Dr. Christakis' studies would legitimately apply to educational programming. She wondered whether more variables could be included in such studies to see whether content or kids watching with their parents make a difference (ibid.). Still, common sense and good parenting can make for normal and therefore better child brain development. Reading to your child trumps TV. (Source: Associated Press.)