Background TV and children’s language development

baby-84552_640 copy

In many American homes the TV is on most of the time even when nobody is watching. This means that toddlers are often playing with toys and doing what toddlers do with the TV on in the background. Recent research shows that such “background” TV exposure may actually stunt children’s language development.
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How media researchers fail our children

empty classroom

One of the biggest faults of media researchers, myself included, is that we are doing a poor job of educating the public about research related to children and media. It’s like we’re speaking to ourselves in an empty classroom.

Just this morning I came across a recent article written by Dr. Victor Strasburger, a Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics (Emeritus) at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics – a journal, by the way, that typical parents either don’t know about or can’t even access.
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Porn, parents, and kids’ self-worth


Pornography is a near-mainstream part of life for American adolescents. By the time they reach college, research suggests that about 50% of our kids will regularly view pornography. This means that whether your child looks at pornography or not, they will be affected by it in some way. For those who don’t view pornography, they’ll likely date somebody who does, and this has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and relationship quality, among other things. Sounds daunting for a parent of four daughters like me.
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Un-super heroes


When I was young I wanted to be Daniel LaRusso. You remember Daniel. Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi and Johnny. I remember watching Karate Kid with my brother on several occasions. After Daniel wins the tournament at the end of the show, my brother and I would inevitably start practicing karate on each other. We perfected the crane move that Daniel used to beat Johnny at the end. We got so good at karate (or so we thought), that one time I got mad at him for spilling grape juice on my favorite blanket so I punched him as hard as I could in a place where I knew it would hurt. I felt so bad about what I did, so I begged him to hit me back. While I can’t remember if he hit me back or not, I do think this is the first instance that I can recall in which I was directly influenced by media exposure. I was imitating my hero.
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Timing of “the talk”

boy facing tv

We thought we had explained where babies come from thoroughly enough. But my daughter then looked at my wife and I with expectant brown eyes and said, “But how are babies made?” We each took a deep breath and figured that if she didn’t learn it from us she’d learn it from TV anyway, so we had the talk. We hadn’t even had the Santa talk yet! At 8 years old I thought it might be a bit early for the talk, but then I conducted some research that showed me that the timing of parent-child conversations about topics commonly seen in the media can make a huge difference.
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Help! My daughter got a cell phone…

friends on cell phone

On Thursday our world changed forever when the UPS man rang our doorbell. Our tween daughter’s cell phone arrived. She’s ecstatic. But if the first 6 hours of her having a phone are any indication, we are in for a rude awakening.

No more than 2 hours after we activated her phone number, she received a collect call from an inmate at the local prison. Then, she texted somebody, but she had the wrong number and we had to tell her to stop texting with a stranger. Later, she somehow left two voicemails for a family member while she was on the phone with somebody else. I didn’t know that was technologically possible! Finally, I got a text from her grandma (my mom) asking if someone in our family got a new phone because she had received an undecipherable voicemail from our area code.

Welcome to the digital world, parents of tweenagers.
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