Even Infants Have a Range of Perceptions When They Watch Screens

Posted on August 5, 2020 at 8:00 am

We have just begun to explore the complexities and wide range of differences in the way individuals watch and respond to what we see on screens. A new study about babies shows that these differences are present at birth. While these study results are illuminating, it does not change my firm position of no screen time before age three and no more than an hour a day and no theatrical screens before age five.

Children’s own temperament could be driving the amount of TV they watch – according to new research from the University of East Anglia and Birkbeck, University of London.

Copyright 2009 Carolien Dekeersmaeker

New findings published today show that the brain responses of 10-month-old babies could predict whether they would enjoy watching fast-paced TV shows six months later.

The research team says that the findings are important for the ongoing debate around early TV exposure.

Lead researcher Dr Teodora Gliga, from UEA’s School of Psychology, said: “The sensory environment surrounding babies and young children is really complex and cluttered, but the ability to pay attention to something is one of the first developmental milestones in babies.

“Even before they can ask questions, children vary greatly in how driven they are to explore their surroundings and engage with new sights or sounds.

“We wanted to find out why babies appear to be so different in the way that they seek out new visual sensory stimulation – such as being attracted to shiny objects, bright colours or moving images on TV.

“There have been various theories to explain these differences, with some suggesting that infants who are less sensitive will seek less stimulation, others suggesting that some infants are simply faster at processing information – an ability which could drive them to seek out new stimulation more frequently.

“In this study we bring support for a third theory by showing that a preference for novelty makes some infants seek more varied stimulation.”

Using a brain imaging method known as electroencephalography (EEG), the research team studied brain activity in 48 10-month old babies while they watched a 40-second clip from the Disney movie Fantasia on repeat.

They studied how the children’s brain waves responded to random interruptions to the movie – in the form of a black and white chequerboard suddenly flashing on screen.

Dr Gliga said: “As the babies watched the repeated video clip, EEG responses told us that they learned its content. We expected that, as the video became less novel and therefore engaged their attention less, they would start noticing the checkerboard.

“But some of the babies started responding to the checkerboard earlier on while still learning about the video – suggesting that these children had had enough of the old information.

“Conversely, others remained engaged with the video even when there was not much to learn from it,” she added.

Parents and carers were also asked to fill in a questionnaire about their babies’ sensory behaviours – including whether they enjoyed watching fast-paced brightly-coloured TV shows. This was followed up with a second similar questionnaire six months later.

Dr Gliga said: “It was very interesting to find that brain responses at 10 months, indicating how quickly infants switched their attention from the repeated video to the checkerboard, predicted whether they would enjoy watching fast-paced TV shows six months later.

“These findings are important for the ongoing debate on early TV exposure since they suggest that children’s temperament may drive differences in TV exposure.

“It is unlikely that our findings are explained by early TV exposure since parents reported that only a small proportion of 10-month-olds were watching TV shows,” she added.

Elena Serena Piccardi, from Birkbeck, University of London, said: “The next part of our research will aim to understand exactly what drives these individual differences in attention to novelty, including the role that early environments may have.

“Exploration and discovery are essential for children’s learning and cognitive development. Yet, different children may benefit from different environments for their learning. As such, this research will help us understand how individualized environments may nurture children’s learning, promote their cognitive development and, ultimately, support achievement of their full potential.

The research was led by UEA in collaboration with Birkbeck, University of London and Cambridge University. It was funded by the Medical Research Council.

‘Individual differences in infant visual sensory seeking’ is published in the journal Infancy on August 5, 2020.

 

 

 

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American Bar Association: Documentaries about Crimes That Change Lives

Posted on August 3, 2020 at 8:32 pm

The American Bar Association’s magazine has an article about “documentaries that swayed criminal cases.” Documentaries can be a very effective form of journalism, advocacy, or both. One example in the article is Joe Berlinger’s Paradise Lost Trilogy, three films over a period of fifteen years about three teenage boys accused of the May 1993 murders and sexual mutilation of three prepubescent boys. Because the accused boys listened to heavy metal music and had been in trouble for various petty offenses, the prosecution alleged that they killed the young boys as a part of a Satanic ritual. The filmmakers originally assumed that the boys were guilty. One of them confessed. But as they talked to the families of the murdered boys and reviewed the evidence, they concluded that they were not guilty. The documentaries, the attention brought to the case by celebrities including some rock musicians, and the review of DNA evidence that showed no connection between the boys and the murder, led to their being released from prison, though not a full exoneration.

The article also discusses Surviving R. Kelly, which gave women who had been sexually abused by the singer the opportunity to tell their stories. “Days after the premiere, Georgia and Illinois opened criminal investigations and encouraged more victims to come forward. By the next month, Kelly had lost his record deal and been charged by the Cook County state’s attorney in Chicago with sex abuse. In July 2019, he got hit with federal sex abuse charges as well. At press time, he sits in a Chicago jail awaiting trial.” He had managed to avoid responsibility in an earlier trial. The evidence in the documentary provided a path to holding him accountable.

Other documentaries mentioned include The Central Park Five, Making a Murderer, The Staircase, and documentary podcasts In the Dark and Serial.

The “documentary” footage taken by amateur observers has had an enormous impact recently, in tragedies like the death of George Floyd and in angry disputes over racist comments and wearing masks. Footage like that will certainly have an increasing impact on criminal and civil cases.

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