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"Toddler Vision" -- The Discovery Files

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A new study done by researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that when a TV is on in a room both the quantity and the quality of the interactions between parents and their children drops. The researchers studied about 50 1-, 2-, and 3-year-olds, each of whom was placed with one of their parents in two half-hour sessions.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(SOUND EFFECT: Campy kid music) Kids With a TV Background.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(SOUND EFFECT: TV sounds) More specifically the effect of TV on infants and toddlers -- even if it's on just in the background. Does background TV have an impact on parent-child interactions?

That's the basis of a University of Massachusetts study that found when the TV's turned on -- parents may be a little tuned out.

(SOUND EFFECT: sound kid/parent) The researchers teamed up 50 toddlers with one of their parents for some quality time in a playroom with and without TV.

When the TV was on, it was on in the background -- but playing an adult program such as "Jeopardy!"

Interaction between child and parent (how often they talked; how they responded, and how involved they were) was observed and measured with each child and parent.

With the TV on, there was 20% less time spent talking with each other and the quality of the interactions declined as well. Parents were less active and responsive. Not "channeling" their attention so to speak.

Other studies have shown TV's impact on toddlers by themselves, but this is the first to demonstrate that in this crucial time of development, if you really want to click with your child, you may want to click off the remote.

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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