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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Not specified Parenting Preschoolers Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Do Babies Learn to Swipe Before They Learn to Talk?

Posted on June 2, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Personal cloud storage company MiMedia has released the results of a survey of parents.

76% of parents admit to running out of storage on their phones from taking too many photos/videos of their kids
71% think Moms take more photos of their kids than Dads
Nearly 3 out of 5 parents (58%) say their child (age 0-3) was able to operate a touchscreen digital device by swiping before they learned to speak
57% think Moms share too many baby photos on social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
Almost half (47%) of parents say their child (age 0-3) likes taking selfies
47% of parents share at least 1 photo/video on average of their child (age 0-3) per day, whereas 34% don’t share any
1 out of 3 parents (34% ) takes 1 video on average of their child (age 0-3) per day, whereas 13% of parents take 5+ videos on average of their child (age 0-3) per day
28% take 2 photos on average of their child (age 0-3) per day
Almost 1 out of 3 parents (28%) admits to taking substantially more photos of their first born than other children
22% of parents take 5+ photos on average of their child (age 0-3) per day
13% of parents take 5+ videos on average of their child (age 0-3) per day

Parents should be careful to make sure they are spending more time interacting with their children than taking pictures and videos of them — and that children learn about how to behave with people before they learn about how to interact with machines.

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Commentary Parenting Preschoolers Understanding Media and Pop Culture

What Screen Time Does to Developing Brains

Posted on September 2, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Copyright Stylus 2014
Copyright Stylus 2014

As kids go back to school, it’s a good time to establish some rules about screen time.  My recommended rules are below. This is increasingly important as kids are surrounded by screens everywhere — and by adults who themselves have a problem staying away from their own phones and tablets. Psychology Today has a sobering article on the impact of electronic media on kids, making them “angry, depressed, and unmotivated” and causing attention problems. The author, Victoria Dunkley, explores these issues in more depth in her book, Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time.

The Movie Mom’s recommended rules for families:

  • Screen time is a treat, not a right. It’s a good idea to make sure that it comes only after homework, chores, other kinds of play, and family time. Make sure there is some quiet time each day as well. The spirit is nourished by silence. All too often, we try to drown out our unsettled or lonely feelings in noise, instead of allowing them to resolve themselves. Just as important, the best and most meaningful family communication flourishes only in quiet.Plan with your child what he or she is going to watch. You might say something like, “We should have time for one hour of television today” or “Let’s pick something to watch on Sunday afternoon.” Then look at choices together or look through a movie guide to see the options and pick which ones you think are worthwhile. Try to avoid the “let’s see if there’s anything to watch” channel surf, which has a tendency to be numbing rather than engaging or relaxing. Distract the kids with crayons, books, or toys; not screens and digital media. Children spend more time with television and other media than they do in school or with their families — a full workweek of 35 hours a week or more. Most educators think that anything over two hours at that age takes too much time away from the important “work” of playing, learning to interact with others, learning to amuse themselves, and developing their imaginations.
  • Turn the devices off when the program is over, unless there is something else you planned to watch on next. This discourages the idea that we “watch screens” instead of watching particular programs.
  • Watch with the kids whenever possible, and comment on what you see. Encourage them to comment, too. “What do you think he will do next?” “She looks sad. I think they hurt her feelings.” “He’s having a hard time feeling good about himself, isn’t he?” “If you were that kid, what would you do?” “If someone said that to you, how would you feel?”
  • Look for positive role models for girls. Children’s shows produced for commercial networks tend to ignore girls. Producers are asked for shows with “boy appeal,” because the numbers show that girls will watch shows produced for boys, but boys won’t watch shows produced for girls. There is a lot of what I call “the Smurfette syndrome,” a reference to the cartoon show that features 99 highly varied male characters and one girl character, whose sole and defining characteristic was that she was a female. Whether you have daughters or sons, help them to be sensitive to these concerns, asking questions like, “Do you think it’s fair that there are no girls on that team?” “How come only the boys get to go on that adventure?” and commenting positively on good female role models: “She’s brave!” “That’s what I call persistence!”
  • Be alert for issues of race, religion, ethnicity, and class. The media tends to feature Dick and Jane, Ozzie and Harriet suburban families, where Dad works and Mom stays home and does housework and everyone is white and vaguely Christian. Non-whites are often portrayed condescendingly or stereotypically. Make sure your children know that there are many different kinds of families, races, and religions, and many different kinds of homes. Make an effort to be sure they see diverse families in what they watch.
  • Set a good example. Don’t let the kids see you veg out in front of devices, aimlessly surfing. Don’t tell them not to talk to you so you can watch some sitcom. Do let them see you reading, and enjoying what you read.
  • Don’t ever let anyone — parent, grandparent, sibling or friend — tell a child that a program or movie he or she wants to watch is “too babyish.” Respect children’s interest and affection for the shows they like, and their need to return to old comforts.
  • Make sure that children understand the difference between programs and commercials. Saturday morning cartoon commercials are particularly troublesome, with a sort of hip-hop precocity that shows grade-school kids acting like hyperactive mini-teenagers.
  • If you find that you have made a mistake and taken your children to a film that you find inappropriate, leave the theater. You can get your money back. And you communicate an important lesson to your children about your commitment to protecting them. The same is true, of course, for any media brought into the home.
  • Do not be shy about setting television limits with babysitters, friends’ parents, or grandparents. Never leave your children with anyone without being clear about your rules.
  • Be careful with tie-ins, especially cartoons based on movie characters. Just because a Saturday morning cartoon like “Spider-Man” or some fast food gizmo is geared for children does not mean that the associated movie is appropriate for them as well.
  • Use movies as a starting point for developing interests. Go to the library to check out a book or video relating to what you have seen. Read the newspaper for stories relating to what you have seen. Make a craft project inspired by the show. (“Can you draw Mickey carrying the buckets of water?” “Let’s try to find where Indiana Jones went on a map.”)
  • When in doubt, turn it off. Remember that there is no reason to watch any device unless you genuinely feel it is the best use of your child’s time.
  • Every month or so, try a “screen diet” day without any devices at all, and use the extra time for special family activities.
  • When an older sibling is watching media that is not appropriate for a younger child, make sure the younger child has an appealing alternative. It’s a good time for you to do something special together, even if it is just sorting laundry or setting the table.
  • Establish strict limits on viewing, but try not to use limits as a punishment, unless the offense relates to media itself (watching without permission, for example) or time management (“If you don’t finish cleaning up by 3:00, you won’t have time to watch the movie.”) This reinforces the message that we make decisions about media based only on the merits of the shows.
  • Let them know why you like (or don’t like) particular shows. Try not to say that something is “too old” for them, as this will just make them more interested in seeing what it is about. Sometimes it works better to say (truthfully) that it is “too stupid.” Compare it to food; some shows are like healthful food, some are like candy, some are like poison. Model good media behavior yourself. Don’t keep it on as background noise. Don’t watch anything you don’t want them to see if they are around (you’d be amazed — and appalled — at what a three-year-old can pick up).
  • No devices in a child’s bedroom, unless he or she is sick in bed. It is not only isolating, but it makes establishing limits impossible.
  • Never, never, never have media on during family meals. That is your most precious time to share the day’s experiences, challenges, and thoughts, and to let children know how important they are to you. The same goes for rides in the car, minivan, or RV.
  • Watch what you enjoy and enjoy what you watch together. Make these among your most precious family connections and memories.
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Commentary Parenting Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Limiting Screentime

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm

It’s a challenge to keep kids away from television and computers and tablets and smartphones, especially in the winter when they are indoors much of the time, and when they’re out of school.  And it is a challenge to make sure they get the most out of the time they do spend on media.  The Chicago Sun-Times has some great advice from the wonderful Nicole Dreiske, founder of the Chicago-based International Children’s Media Center, which offers workshops and festivals for teachers, parents and children that promote constructive screen engagement.

“It doesn’t matter how many opportunities kids have to interface with screens, parents are still the most important people in their lives, and the holidays are a time for family.”

Building a positive relationship between parents and children around screen time is an achievable goal, Dreiske contends, one that could result in less tension with children over media and gaming choices and time limits.

A mistake parents make, she said, is that they put themselves solely in the position of the “media warden, trying to monitor all the media coming into the home and that’s never going to work,” Dreiske says.

A more constructive approach is to give children an opportunity to talk about what they’re watching.

I’m honored that this website was one of the resources she recommended for parents.  Many thanks!

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List: Family Favorites for Halloween

Posted on October 25, 2013 at 8:00 am

Halloween gives kids a thrilling opportunity to act out their dreams and pretend to be characters with great power. But it can also be scary and even overwhelming for the littlest trick-or-treaters. An introduction to the holiday with videos from trusted friends can help make them feel comfortable and excited about even the spookier aspects of the holiday.

Kids ages 3-5 will enjoy Barney’s Halloween Party, with a visit to the pumpkin farm, some ideas for Halloween party games and for making Halloween decorations at home, and some safety tips for trick-or-treating at night. They will also get a kick out of Richard Scarry’s The First Halloween Ever, which is Scarry, but not at all scary! Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest has the beloved little monkey investigating the Legend of “No Noggin.”


Witches in Stitches is about witches who find it very funny when they turn their sister into a jack o’lantern. And speaking of jack o’lanterns, Spookley the Square Pumpkin is sort of the Rudolph of pumpkins. The round pumpkins make fun of him for being different until a big storm comes and his unusual shape turns out to have some benefits.

Kids from 7-11 will enjoy the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the silly fun of What’s New Scooby-Doo: Halloween Boos and Clues. Try The Worst Witch movie and series, about a young witch in training who keeps getting everything wrong. Kids will also enjoy The Halloween Tree, an animated version of a story by science fiction author Ray Bradbury about four kids who are trying to save the life of their friend. Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock on the original “Star Trek”) provides the voice of the mysterious resident of a haunted house, who explains the origins of Halloween and challenges them to think about how they can help their sick friend. The loyalty and courage of the kids is very touching.

Older children will appreciate The Witches, based on the popular book by Roald Dahl and Hocus Pocus, with children battling three witches played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. And of course there is the deliciously ghoulish double feature Addams Family and Addams Family Values based on the cartoons by Charles Addams. Episodes of the classic old television show are online.

Two recent favorites, Paranorman and Monster House, should become a new Halloween tradition. Frankenweenie and Hotel Transylvania are also a lot of fun.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwTBXDHIKYY

The Nightmare Before Christmas has gorgeous music from Danny Elfman and stunningly imaginative visuals from Tim Burton in a story about a Halloween character who wonders what it would be like to be part of a happy holiday like Christmas. And don’t forget some old classics like The Cat and the Canary (a classic of horror/comedy) and the omnibus ghost story films “Dead of Night” and “The House that Dripped Blood.”

Happy Halloween!

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