The effect of background television on the toy behaviour of very young children

This experiment examined the effect background adult television has on very young children’s toy play behaviour. It was hypothesised that this would have a disruptive affect on children’s play. Researchers observed 50 children, aged 12 months, 24 months and 36 months old for one hour.

The children were provided with a variety of toys to play with for this hour, however, for half that time a TV set in the room was playing an adult game show, while for the other half the television was turned off. Children’s play was monitored during this time by noting the length of play episodes, the length of focused attention during play episodes and the maturity of play the child was engaging in. Parents, who accompanied the children in the experiment, also filled in a questionnaire about their children’s media exposure. This study found that background television had a disruptive impact on young children’s toy play behaviour. Children played less when the television was on, in comparison to when it was off. The study concluded that although children only looked at the television occasionally and for short periods of time, background television caused a significant reduction in toy play episodes and focused attention during play.

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