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Television Disrupts Parent-Child Communication

Last Updated: June 02, 2009.

Exposure to television reduces communication between parents and small children, and DVDs targeted at infants which are promoted as enhancing parent-child communication lack empirical evidence, according to a study published in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

TUESDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to television reduces communication between parents and small children, and DVDs targeted at infants which are promoted as enhancing parent-child communication lack empirical evidence, according to a study published in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a study of 329 children aged 2 to 48 months who wore a digital recorder to record the sounds they were exposed to on random days over a period of up to 24 months. The researchers analyzed the recordings for adult word counts and the children's vocalizations and conversational turns.

All the aspects of parent and child interactions showed a measurable decrease during the time that television was on, with child vocalizations, duration of vocalization and conversational turns, as well as adult word count all reduced during each hour of exposure to television, the investigators found.

"At first blush, these findings may seem entirely intuitive. That is, parents engage their infants less when the television is on," the authors write. "However, these findings must be interpreted in light of the fact that purveyors of infant DVDs claim that their products are designed to give parents and children a chance to interact with one another, an assertion that lacks empirical evidence."

Several of the authors reported financial relationships with the LENA Foundation, which paid for the data collection.

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