Childhood television viewing has long been controversial in regards to its impacts on many aspects, including its educational purpose. According to Early Childhood Development (ECD), early childhood, normally deemed to be a range between birth and the age of eight (UNESCO), is a crucial period that one experiences rapid brain development, and is considered to be significantly influential in many domains including abilities to learn (World Bank, 2011). While educative programmes are suggested to be beneficial to children, content of non-educative programmes could have yet more negative effects.
Also, while television viewing is in general blamed for its impact on children’s cognitive development, it is argued that the magnitude of the impact is essentially determined by time spent on television viewing. The essay will begin with an introduction of theories about child development and childhood learning, followed by a review on educational television targeted young children, and will then talk about to what extent does television viewing affect children cognitively, and thus negatively in their educational achievements.
Finally an evaluation of television as a medium would be drawn. Television viewing habit is thought to be changed through cognitive developmental transformation. Cognitive development, also known as intellectual development, is in general explained as a process through which environmental and social stimuli are perceived and knowledge is constructed (Usha, 2008: 374-375). According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development (Atherton, 2011), learning starts as early as the stage of infancy, and the onset of linguistic and perceptual related development begins at this stage.
Also, as stated by ECD, with suitable stimulation and interaction together with a variety of physical and environmental factors in the early childhood years, children tend to fulfil their greatest potential and achieve better in education (World Bank, 2011). With the intention of aiding early learning, educational television shows are produced for children of different age groups, and it is demonstrated that preschoolers are crucially affected by educational television viewing. Bickham et al. , 2006: 42). Children’s educational television, while designed in order to prepare preschoolers for learning in school, has been criticised. For instance, as one of the earliest-produced and most successful children educative programmes, Sesame Street was claimed to cause shortened attention spans (Winn, 1987) and worsened language abilities (Healy, 1990) in children (in Anderson, 1998).
In other words, preschoolers are believed to be less capable of remaining focused and planning, as well as understanding and expressing thoughts due to frequent children television viewing, which, with a sequence of clear images, could lead young children to become accustomed to grasping information in a way that different from how it is with other stimuli (Healy, 1998). However, it is argued in relevant studies that instead of passively receiving information in a forcible way, children in fact actively choose and respond to information that corresponds to their cognitive stages (Anderson, 1988).
What is more, it is found that young children who watch educational programmes perform better than others in both elementary school (Doku et al. , 2004, in Baydar et al. , 2008: 350) and high school (Anderson et al. , 2001), especially on vocabulary-related measures. Likewise, it is indicated that young children who watch educational programmes tend to be more ready for school and are more likely to establish learning patterns that lead to good academic performance in adolescence, especially on math and science (Bickham et al. 2006: 57). On the other hand, while advocating television viewing for its educational purpose, it is crucial to acknowledge that there are yet more entertainment programmes, whose content varies considerably and is generally not educative. That is, while considering impacts of television viewing, entertainment shows are mainly regarded, and since it is difficult to distinguish the content clearly, the overall time of television viewing is concerned (Anderson and Schmidt, 2006: 67).
To begin with, television-related fears have been found to grow noticeably among preschoolers, implying that television has radically influenced young children’s cognitive development (Taimalu, 2003). It is indicated that children who watch television excessively before the age of three tend to show inferior cognitive performance, including shortened memory spans and poorer math scores, at the age of six or seven (Zimmerman, 2005: 625).
Besides, violence content could result in lower productivity, motivation, as well as educational achievement (MacBeth, 1996, in Anderson, 2001). Worse academic scores in the school were reported to be greatly associated with preschooler’s entertainment viewing (Bickham et al. , 2000: 114-115). Also, time consumed on television viewing is proposed to affect learning quality. It is highlighted that in comparison to children who have no television set in the bedroom, those with television in the room perform significantly worse on math, language and reading tasks (Hopkins, 2005).
What is more, childhood television viewing is suggested to have an ongoing influence, and it is pointed out that school age children who watch television less than an hour per day are four times more likely to graduate from an university than those who watch television for more than three hours per day, in other words, those who watch television excessively are more likely to fail to attain a university degree (Hancox et al. , 2005: 614, 616-617). On the whole, instead of television per se, it is time spent on television viewing and content of programmes that are critical matters.
As Healy (1998) pointed out, excessive television viewing could deprive children of time for gaining other vital experiences from activities that require more imagination and attention, such as reading, creative games, and social interactions. In addition, content of a large amount of programmes watched by school age is entertaining rather than educative, and this explains the negative correlation between television viewing and children’s intellectual as well as academic achievement found in most studies (Anderson and Schmidt, 2006: 67).
Nonetheless, television viewing could sometimes provide experiences that one lacks. Comstock and Paik (1991, in Anderson and Schmidt, 2006: 67) indicated that children in economically disadvantaged environment, who had little access to educative activities, could learn from television as an alternative. Given that, television as a medium is relatively harmless. To sum up, television per se as a medium generally does no harm and television viewing could be educationally beneficial to children, as long as it is well supervised in terms of viewing time and content.
While programmes designed specifically for young children could be educational and helpful, excessive viewing could result in attention as well as language deficits. Additionally, excessive viewing of non-educative programmes is highly associated with poor cognitive performance and academic achievement in the long term. Word Count: 1080 Bibliography * Anderson, D. R. (1998). Educational Television Is Not an Oxymoron. ANNALS, AAPSS, 557. * Anderson, D. R. and Schmidt, M. F (2006). The Impact of Television on Cognitive Development and Educational Achievement. In N. Peoora (Ed. ), J.
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