LOVE INTERACTING - WITH PEOPLE OR TV
Debbie Glasser, Special to The Miami Herald
next time your toddler's favorite television character asks a question
or sings a song, you might want to encourage your toddler to join
in the fun. According to a recent study, the more interactive the
content of your toddler's videos, the more likely your child will
be entertained - and educated.
characters - those who speak directly into the camera and wait for
a child's response - may serve as a meaningful source of information
for young viewers.
"We've known for some time that watching video is not an especially
efficient way for toddlers to learn,'' said Georgene Troseth, study
co-author and assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University
in Tennessee. "Young children seem to learn better from directly
interacting with people.''
when characters appear to look into children's eyes and engage in
conversation with them, they are producing what psychologists call
"social cues,'' Troseth said. These cues can enhance children's
social, cognitive, and language skills.
children are exposed to social cues, either from fictional characters
or real people, they're more likely to pay attention and respond
to the information presented to them, according to experts. This
engagement can be a powerful learning tool.
as positive as interactive characters may be, Troseth reminds parents
that "conversations'' between children and characters on TV
are no substitute for the critical social connections that can only
be achieved by face-to-face communication.
can you do to make the most of your children's TV viewing experiences
and enhance their learning? Here are some suggestions:
Choose wisely. "Television - whether good or bad - is multi-layered,
and can have an unpredictable impact on a child who's not yet a
savvy media consumer,'' said Emily Richardson- Lorente, coordinating
producer of South Florida's KidVision, WPBT-PBS 2's programming
platform for kids, "so parents need to make good and careful
choices about what they allow their children to watch.'' Choose
shows that promote positive messages that are consistent with your
family's goals and values, she suggested.
Watch together. An effective, fun way to help young children learn
from television is to watch with them, Richardson-Lorente said.
"Talk about the characters and the story line together,'' she
said. "Ask your children questions about what they're watching,
reaffirm the lessons, and help make the lessons come alive.''
Make connections. "Young children are still figuring out that
a video is a representation that they can learn from,'' Troseth
said. Point out links between what's on television and what's in
your children's world. For example, if they're learning about the
color yellow on TV, point to yellow objects at home. "Don't
assume that the connection between video and the real world will
be clear to toddlers.''
Keep commercials to a minimum. "Young children can be easily
influenced by advertising, especially when it's geared towards them,''
Richardson-Lorente said. "For young children who don't understand
the difference between a program and an advertisement, commercials
can be toxic.'' Limit exposure to television commercials when children
are young and help them become informed consumers as they grow,
Set limits. Troseth encourages parents of young children to set
limits on television viewing and provide opportunities for playful,
meaningful connections away from the TV.
agree that while many television programs and videos can be effective
learning tools, parents are their children's best teachers.
watch everything you do and say, and they learn best in their daily
interactions with you,'' Troseth said. "You are much more powerful
in your children's lives than any character on TV.''
learn more, visit www.pbs.org/parents.
Debbie Glasser, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder
of NewsFor Parents.org, an online newsletter for parents. She can
be reached at debbie@NewsForParents.org.
June 1, 2006
Copyright (c) 2006 The Miami Herald