Children are not Zombies

By Ricardo Cuevas on December 26, 2011 in child reading blog with 6 Comments

Many opponents to Educational Children’s Television believe that the dangers of TV come from its ability be a “passive” medium. That is to say that children and adults will watch it regardlessLegos walking like zombiesof its content. That because of its quick editing cuts, loud scenes, multiple colors, funny noises, zooming in/out we will watch (like zombies) regardless of the actual content. With pre-schoolers, nothing could be further from the truth. As researchers have known for a long time, children watch because they understand and turn away when they don’t understand. Elizabeth Lorch and Daniel Anderson of the University of Massachusetts performed this research over 30 years ago. They wanted to find out what made children watch. Using a show like Sesame Street they set out to find out why kids paid attention to certain scenes. They were astonished to find that children watched not just because of the loud noises and bright colors. But, they watched because they understood the contents of the show. To test their theory they took an episode of Sesame Street and shuffled around key scenes of the episode so that they were out of sequence. What they quickly found was that children tuned out. In other words, children watched because they could make sense of the content. When parents want to teach children a foreign language such as Spanish, it important that the child is watching age appropriate programs. It is important to find content that is developed specially for children of the specific age group. Many parents complain that children tune out when watching certain programs. Keeping this research in mind, it is important to keep in mind that children can be overwhelmed by the dialogue used in certain programs so that their interest is lost. Programs such as Reading Amigo were developed in a manner that places importance on the actual content of the program, said content is delivered in a clear manner that is fun and interesting at the same time. In an upcoming blog entry, we will discuss whether children actually understand and learn from what they are watching.

Sources: Markle Foundation essays on information policy

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