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It turns out that TV isn’t the wonder drug

Submitted by on Monday, 4 January 2010 2 Comments

The warnings have been around for years, but they were easily ignored because they were couched in terms of “we think” and “possibly.”

Children might take longer to learn to talk if they spend a lot of time in noisy environments. Even if the television is on only in the background, more exposure to it means less time hearing parents talk and possible lags in language development.

There is no escaping, though, the findings of a new survey in Britain that shows one in seven girls and one in four boys in that country are having trouble learning to speak and to understand others. Four percent had not said a word by age 3.

Meanwhile, more than a quarter of British families report that the television is on in their house either most of the time or all of the time, according to an article from The Daily Mail.

It gets worse: Ten percent of 1- and 2-year-olds have TVs in their rooms, while a third of 5- to 7-year-olds do. I’m feeling a little deprived here. I was 26 before I had a TV in my bedroom. And please don’t tell the guys. They think my “one TV on in the house at a time” rule is draconian verging on cruel.

The poll was released by Jean Gross, the government’s “communications advisor” who was appointed last year to “promote children’s speaking skills,” according to The Daily Mail.

Granted, they’re a little bit weird across the pond – remember, they want to conjure up their own Internet ratings and demand that the rest of the world censor content that doesn’t meet their vague “family” standards – but it’s kind of depressing that even these odd ducks find it necessary to appoint a Talking Czar.

Talk about overcomplicating something that hasn’t changed since cave mommies and daddies were grunting at cave babies: Parents speak, and children repeat.

It’s really that simple. It doesn’t take slick software or videos for babies. Talk to your kid. Read to your kid. It doesn’t even cost anything assuming you can get books back to the library on time and avoid the overdue fees – something I, by the way, have not mastered.

That’s not to say that all TV is evil – yes, I actually told my kids to watch for a while a few weeks ago simply so I could accomplish something without killing them. But there is something wrong with a constant electronic drone replacing real-time communications.

Copyright Debra Legg 2010. All rights reserved.

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  • Lisa said:

    I’m actually going to be writing a post about this shortly on my blog because I read the same article. As a parent with one child in speech therapy, I resent being told that I put my kid in front of the TV too much. I’ve got one kid who speaks triple the words she should have at all the stages and my son who was losing words at 18 months and his dr wouldn’t listen when I said he was behind. The part that kills me is a lot of speech issues are genetic, but the person writing the article didn’t bother to research that.

  • Debra said:

    I was actually thinking of your situation when I wrote the post and should have included the very disclaimer that you mentioned – that sometimes there are genetic issues involved. You’re absolutely right that it’s misleading to paint anything with too broad a brush, that there are always going to be exceptions. Your doctor certainly should have listened, particularly since (duh!) as the mother you certainly know your own child better than the doctor.

    Having said that, it’s hard to believe that that many kids in this particular survey were exceptions.