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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Pandemic Watching: The Washington Post’s 25 Comfort Movies

Posted on May 17, 2020 at 8:00 am

Copyright 1953 Paramount
The Washington Post has a new list of “comfort movies,” just right to cuddle up with while we wait out the virus. You know what that means: a lot of romantic comedies including Nancy Meyers’ “The Holiday” and “It’s Complicated.” Plus “Notting Hill,” “Roman Holiday,” and “That Thing You Do” (those last two really are classics everyone needs to see). But don’t think too hard; just watch.

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Family Movies for the Homebound VI: Kids Playing Sports

Posted on April 13, 2020 at 12:34 pm

Copyright 20th Century Fox 2002

It’s tough for kids to be unable to play their favorite sports due to the restrictions from social distancing. It might help to watch some classic and beloved films about kids and teenagers playing sports.

Baseball

The Sandlot:  In the 1960s, a boy whose mother has just remarried moves to a new town and begins to make friends when he joins in a sandlot baseball game. The boy’s challenges include developing some baseball skills, trying to achieve a comfortable relationship with his new stepfather (Denis Leary), and finding a way to triumph over “The Beast ” (a junkyard dog) and the bigger, tougher kids who challenge his friends to a game. All are well handled in this exceptionally perceptive story of growing up.

Rookie of the Year: In this fantasy film Thomas Ian Nicholas plays a so-so Little League player until he breaks his arm and finds that his “tendons have healed too tight” making him, suddenly, a Major League-level pitcher.  As a hitter? Well, he benefits from a very small strike zone.

Basketball

Like Mike: The script is right out of the Hollywood formula box, with everything from two different “shoes not there at the crucial moment” scenes and important lessons about teamwork to the winning shot going into the basket just as the buzzer goes off., but it is sweet and fun.

The Mighty Macs: This uplifting film is based on the real-life story of Cathy Rush, a powerhouse basketball coach at a tiny Catholic women’s college who took her team all the way to the top.

Coach Carter:  We all love movies about underdog teams that come from behind because they (1) learn the importance of teamwork, (2) learn the importance of discipline and of respect for themselves and each other, (3) are galvanized by an inspiring leader, or, even better, (4) all of the above. This movie, based on a true story, takes it a step further, with an emphasis on schoolwork as well.

Swimming

Pride: Like all sports stories, this is about teamwork, but the team that matters here is Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac who bring such conviction and authenticity to this story of an inner-city Pennsylvania 70’s swim team that you can smell the chlorine and half expect Fat Albert to wander in with Mushmouth.

Touch the Wall: The documentary about champion swimmer Missy Franklin is a candid portrayal of the hard work — and the conflicts of loyalty and friendship — that are a part of competitive sports.

Surfing

Soul Surfer: AnnaSophia Robb stars as Bethany Hamilton, a competitive surfer who came back better than ever after a shark attack.

Soccer

Believe: Brian Cox plays real-life superstar soccer (football) manager Sir Matt Busby, who survived the tragic plane crash when eight of his players did not. When he encounters a gifted young player from an unruly kids’ team, both he and the team have something to learn.

Hockey

The Mighty Ducks: A slick lawyer is caught driving drunk and ordered by the court to coach a rag-tag kids’ hockey team in this beloved Disney film starring Emilio Estavez.

Martial Arts

Three Ninjas: Three sons of an FBI agent are kidnapped and use their martial arts skills to defeat the bad guys.

The Karate Kid: The classic original and the 2010 remake are both terrific stories about boys who use the discipline and training of martial arts to triumph over an arrogant bully. Fans can also enjoy the sequels and the current Cobra Kai series.

Figure Skating

Ice Princess: A straight-A student brings math to ice skating in this charming Disney film.

Gymnastics

An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars: Real-life Olympics star Cathy Rigby stars as the coach in this heartwarming story about friendship, family, and gymnastics.

Stick It: This film about a girl forced to return to gymnastics after she gets into trouble is pure delight — smart, funny, gorgeously cinematic, and all about real girl power.

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Family Movies for the Homebound V: Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets

Posted on April 6, 2020 at 8:00 am

Copyright 1979 MGM

More movies for families to share, these are all stories of children and teens and their pets:

Because of Winn-Dixie: Kate DiCamillo’s book about a girl and her dog in a small southern town is filled with atmosphere.

Lssie Come Home: The first film featuring the most famous dog in movies stars Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor in a story set in Yorkshire. Joe (McDowell) and Lassie are devoted to one another, but Joe’s father falls on hard times and has to sell Lassie to a wealthy duke (Nigel Bruce). The duke’s granddaughter (Taylor) lets her go, and Lassie has to find her way home.

The Three Lives of Thomasina: A little girl’s beloved cat dies, euthanized by her stern veterinarian father, who believes the cat is critically ill. But cats have nine lives. With the help of a mysterious woman who lives in the woods, the cat returns, first without a memory of her previous life but then she recalls her past and is reunited with the girl who loves her.

Dreamer: Inspired by a true story, this film stars Dakota Fanning as a little girl who believes an injured horse can race again. SEE ALSO: “National Velvet,” included in List I.

The Black Stallion: One of the most cinematically stunning films ever made, this story of a boy and a horse who are shipwrecked together, then rescued, and then the horse enters a race. Mickey Rooney co-stars as the wise horse trainer.

Fly Away Home: Goslings imprint on the first thing they see, which is how a batch of baby geese think that a young girl is their mother. To keep them safe, she has to find a way to lead them to a sanctuary — by flying there.

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Our Costume Designer Daughter — Profiled in The Credits

Posted on April 1, 2020 at 6:44 am

Copyright Rachel Apatoff 2020
We are so proud of our daughter, Rachel Apatoff, profiled on the Motion Picture Association’s website about the industry, The Credits. She talks about her first job as a costume designer on a low-budget upcoming feature film, and about how all production has stopped due to COVID-19.

It wasn’t just the flow of costumer jobs that stopped. It was a halt in momentum for her dream agenda: to be a fully dedicated costume designer. Last fall, that momentum had begun when she was hired for her first feature film as a designer. Operating with “a quarter of the money it should have had,” it was a challenging shoot. But for Apatoff, the experience was “was astonishing, exhilarating, thrilling, even in the most frustrating and hair-tearing moments. You’re working 100 hours a week, you’re not getting paid anything, and your project is impossible and it’s still the most fun to be able to say, ‘Okay, this character feels sad and lonely in this scene and we’re going to show that by having her wear her dead dad’s old sweatshirt because, you know, she wants to feel more loved and safe.” You get to dive so deep into the little nitty-gritty details of how people feel about their situation and about themselves, and how they present themselves as a result.”

We are very, very proud of our brilliant, beautiful, accomplished, and kind-hearted daughter.

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