Dmitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics and the leading author of the study at the University of Washington, said that TV watching considerably reduced communication between parents and their babies, which is vital for infants' language development.
During the study, including 329 children aged between two months and four years, the researchers put on special vests with small digital recorders on children to continuously document every noise kids hear and say aside from the time the kids spent on sleeping or bathing. The computer program examined what sounds came from adults, from the baby or the television.
The findings of the study are as follows:
- For every hour with TV turned on, the babies heard between 500 and 1,000 fewer words from their caregivers
- TV watching significantly reduced the number of words uttered by adults. Usually, adults say around 941 words per hour, while during TV watching this number was reduced to a minimum.
- Babies exposed to TV, whether actively watching it with sound on or as a background, also tended to vocalize less than children, who spent less time on TV watching
Around 30 percent of Americans report about having TV constantly switched on. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, TV exposure should be reduced to a minimum for children under two years old.
Previous study conducted by Dimitri Christakis in 2007 showed that educational DVDs such as Brainy Baby or Baby Einstein cannot substitute communication. The findings of the study revealed that DVD's like Baby Einstein reduced communicate between babies and their parents.
Scientists warn that permanent TV watching can slow down babies' language development that plays an important role for brain development early in life. They said that TV cannot substitute proper communication between adults and kids, because it actually results in fewer words heard and said by babies, which harms infant learning.
The study was published in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.