Turn off TV to teach toddlers new words

Jun 28, 2007

Toddlers learn their first words better from people than from Teletubbies, according to new research at Wake Forest University. The study was published in the June 21 issue of Media Psychology.

Children younger than 22 months may be entertained, but they do not learn words from the television program, said Marina Krcmar, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest and author of the study.

"With the tremendous success of programs such as ‘Teletubbies’ that target very young children, it has become important to understand what very young children are taking away from these programs,” Krcmar said. “We would like to think it could work, that Teletubbies and other programs can teach initial language skills. That is not true.”

In the study, Krcmar evaluated the ability of children ages 15 – 24 months to learn new words when the words were presented as part of a “Teletubbies” program. She then evaluated their ability to learn the new words from an adult speaker in the same room with them.

Children younger than 22 months did not accurately identify an object when taught the new word by the television program, but they were readily able to connect the word with the object when the word was presented by an adult standing in front of them, she said.

"During the early stages of language acquisition, and for children who still have fewer than 50-word vocabularies, toddlers learn more from an adult speaker than they do from a program such as ‘Teletubbies,’” Krcmar said.

The results of this study have important implications for language acquisition. It indicates exposure to language via television is insufficient for teaching language to very young children. To learn new words, children must be actively engaged in the process with responsive language teachers.

"We have known for years that children ages 3 and older can learn from programs like ‘Sesame Street,’” Krcmar said. But, it seems television programming for children under the age of 2 does not help build vocabulary.

The results confirm the recommendation of the Academy of Pediatrics to avoid television for children under 2 years old.

As part of the study, Krcmar also found that the children were just as attentive to an adult speaker on the small screen as they were to the Teletubbies characters. And, the children identified the target words more successfully in response to a video of an adult speaker than to the Teletubbies.

"The idea that television can help teach young children their first words is a parent’s dream, but one not supported by this research,” she said.

Source: Wake Forest University

Explore further: 'Ice Bucket Challenge' passes $100 mn mark

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Drying Sierra meadows could worsen California drought

Aug 21, 2014

Carpeting the high valleys of Yosemite and other parts of the Sierra Nevada, mountain meadows are more than an iconic part of the California landscape. The roughly 17,000 high altitude meadows help regulate ...

The boundaries of reading apps for children

Aug 18, 2014

A series of binary discussions has been plaguing early reading instruction for quite some time now: phonics versus whole language, reading for pleasure versus reading for learning, digital versus paper books. ...

How arbitrary is language?

Aug 14, 2014

Words in the English language are structured to help children learn according to research led by Lancaster University.

Recommended for you

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

Medtronic spends $350M on another European deal

Aug 27, 2014

U.S. medical device maker Medtronic is building stronger ties to Europe, a couple months after announcing a $42.9 billion acquisition that involves moving its main executive offices across the Atlantic, where it can get a ...

Mind over matter for people with disabilities

Aug 26, 2014

People with serious physical disabilities are unable to do the everyday things that most of us take for granted despite having the will – and the brainpower – to do so. This is changing thanks to European ...

User comments : 0