Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman has caused controversy by saying that under-three's should have almost no exposure to television. While it would be difficult to argue the opposite, many may be surprised that Dr. Sigman recommends virtual banishment for the very young. Furthermore, he recommends limiting up-to-seven year olds to a maximum of an hour and a half of TV or computer exposure per day, and a maximum of two hours up to the age of 18.
Dr. Sigman's recommendations are based on a number of research observations. One concern is that sitting in front of screens leads to a sedentary lifestyle and is largely responsible for the explosion in diabetes and heart disease in the population. Another concern is that the acts of watching television and playing computer games have an affect on brain development. While brain scans of computer gamers showed different brain patterns, his research does not conclusively prove that gaming alters the brain, or whether people with gaming patterns are predisposed to playing games. His research does suggest that gamers are more prone to addiction and develop a dependency on screen technology.
We probably aren't that surprised to hear all of this; we all remember our own grandparents talking about the perils of television and the harm it would do in modern society, but back then it was pure conjecture and fear of the unknown. That their fears are being realised at a time when screens are appearing in every room of the house and even in our pockets gives us more to think about. We really have entered the information age, and we don't know where this is going!
Parents who have the television on the whole time are affecting their children's speech, according to recent research in America. Parents who tend to keep the television on even when not watching it are less likely to talk to their children and the children actually end up speaking less and having a worse grasp of language.
A study of babies and children aged between 2 months and 4 years found that for every hour the TV was on during the day, the parents used between 500 and 1,000 less words.
The study was published in the journal Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and the researchers said that this may explain the association between watching TV and delayed speech in some children. Over 300 children were studied on random days over a 2 year period.
Children were sometimes left alone in front of the television, or were not addressed while the television was being watched, or the parent was watching the screen and not interacting with the children.
30% of homes in America, the research said, have TV on all the time. The American Academy of Paediatrics discourages television before the age of two. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the UK does not issue guidelines.