How Watching TV Outside the Classroom Affects Children's Education Development Brain Behavior Thesis

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Television's Effects Outside The Classroom On Children's Education And Development

In a world where children have access to hundreds of channels of television, 24-hours per day, there has been a concern raised that all of this commercialized media is rotting a generation of brains. Children's television has evolved from a handful of educational programs on PBS and a few hours of Saturday morning cartoons, to a constant stream of multiple channels dedicated solely to children's programming. In America, the average youth spends 900 hours per year in school, and 1,500 hours per year in front of the television (Herr, n.d.). The Kaiser Family Foundation notes that two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch 2 hours of television each day. Kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend approximately 4 hours in front of the television each day and an additional 2 hours on the computer, not including time spent doing homework ("How TV," 2009). However, watching television, outside of the classroom, has both positive and negative effects on children's education and their physical and social development.

History of Children's Programming

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Children's programming began in the 1950s as televisions became a part of the American household. By 1951, there was up to 27 hours of children's programming on the networks' schedules. These early forays into children's programming echoed the successful radio programming for children and centered on action-adventure. By the mid-1950s, children's television had established itself in the Saturday morning slot, and by the end of the decade the 30-minute, weekly format was popularized. In the 1960s, the Saturday morning cartoon became the staple of children's programming ("Children and television," 2008).

Thesis on How Watching TV Outside the Classroom Affects Children's Education Development Brain Behavior Assignment

Although the revolutionary Sesame Street, that would forever change the face of children's educational programming, came on the air in 1969, the bulk of children's programming in the 1970s continued to be the low-cost, highly watched cartoon format. The advancement of cable and the VCR saw children's programming moving beyond the national networks and cartoons, to include game shows, live action, drama/adventure shows, and more. The Children's Television Act of the 1990s was reflective of the concern parents and educators had about the increasing numbers of hours that children were spending in front of the 'boob tube'. In response, an increase in educational shows joined the television line up, with "eight of the nine Peabody Awards for children's programs (awarded) for informational or educational programs" ("Children and television," 2008).

Television as a Motivating Factor for Young Readers and Writers

Television provides a common experience for children to relate with one another. Although some programming has been developed to serve an educational purpose, much of what is on the air today is simply for entertainment purposes. However, even if the program itself is not educational, the characters and plot lines of popular television shows can be utilized to motivate young readers and writers. Herr (2000) describes how using a popular superhero, along with a female-gendered version, that children had seen on television outside of the classroom was used to motivate students.

Batman, accompanied by his friend Batwoman, were used as a theme for role-playing in the study Marsh (2000) overviews. Two classes of six- and seven-year-old children were given a variety of literary resources in a 'Batcave'. These included: diaries for the superheroes, a noticeboard, notebooks, paper, jotters, writing implements, comic books, maps, and a computer. Provided with flowing capes, the children eagerly flocked to the Batcave and engaged in a variety of literacy activities.

The study proved to be especially effective in encouraging boys to participate in literacy activities. The teachers devised a variety of reading and writing activities, for the classroom, to capitalize on the children's enthusiasm for the theme. Marsh (2000) notes that children who had previously been identified as having very little motivation eagerly completed the tasks. It was surmised that the success of this project was due to combining the literacy work with characters from popular culture television that interested the children.

The second study Marsh (2000) discusses was conducted in two nurseries and centered on the popular children's program -- Teletubbies. The children in the study were invited to make 'Tubby custard', a common item found in the series. During the making of the custard, the children read recipes with the researcher and discussed concepts including: temperature, dissolution and changes of properties of materials. This dialog was interspersed with talk of the program itself and items the children owned relating to Teletubbies. The children were then asked to write their own Teletubby recipe.

It was discovered that this type of activity, blending popular culture television with a learning activity, was especially useful for the young children who were in the early stages of acquiring English as a second language. These children had a common reference point that they could talk about with their classmates., as popular culture, such as the Teletubbies, crosses ethnic, racial, linguistic, and even socio-economic boundaries. The children, as in the previous study, were very excited about the project and "literally ran to the writing area to produce their own recipes for Tubby custard, toast, pizza, and burgers" (Marsh, 2000). Also as in the previous study, children who were previously identified as not particularly motivated were very eager to complete this project, again showing how television that had been watched outside the classroom can be used to motivate children in literacy activities.

Television and Cognitive Development

One focus of television's effects on children centers on the potential effects this medium has on their patterns of understanding and thinking. Concerns have arisen, in the past, regarding television's ability to mesmerize children's attention, as well as overstimulate them. One worry was that children entered an altered state of consciousness when watching television. However, this concern has received very little support from previous research. Instead, one theory that explains children's attention to the television is the visual stimulus that occurs, due to the movement and visual complexity of the medium ("Children and television," 2008). Other research has linked active watching of television with comprehension.

Research has shown that children's programming that features visual and auditory signals that suggest to younger viewers that the programming is made for children, that their attention is drawn to that content. It has been found that children become bored when the material is no longer comprehensible. In addition, their attention can be deflected when distractions occur. These attentional patterns to television are segmented into specific stages. Before the age of two, children's attention span to television is fragmentary. During preschool, their attention span increases, with a large increase in the ability to pay attention to patterns beginning between the ages of 24- and 30-months. The visual attention to television begins to decrease around the age of eight, as the child's attention pattern begins to become more adult-like ("Children and television," 2008). It has also been found that children perceive television differently than adults.

For children, understanding a television show requires tasks that are fairly complex. These include selectively being attentive to the events on the program, the perception of the organization of the events, and inferring things from implicitly given information. By examining both visual and verbal decoding, comprehension research has determined that both cognitive development and experience are functions of comprehension. For these reasons, younger children often have difficulty comprehending television, due to their difficulty in comprehending the events sequences, inability to separate central from peripheral content, and inability to understand causation. Younger children, under the age of ten, also have difficulty processing complex storytelling features such as flashbacks and point-of-view shots ("Children and television," 2008). Exposure to television, however, helps develop comprehension by exposing the children to more experiences.

Television and Learning

As noted earlier, Sesame Street was a groundbreaking children's program when it began in 1969. Today, more than six million preschoolers watch the program, each week, around the world. Sesame Street is also one of the most studied pieces children's programming. This research has yielded a growing body of knowledge. Included in this wealth of knowledge is the theory that young children can learn skills from Sesame Street, and that this contributes to early educational success for viewers. The format of Sesame Street has been repeated in other Children's Television Workshop productions, as well as other producers of children's programming. These programs teach a variety of educational skills ("Children and television," 2008). As two examples -- preschoolers can learn the alphabet from children's program. Grade schoolers can learn about different wildlife from watching nature shows ("How TV," 2009). Children's programming also has social skills benefits as well.

In addition to teaching children educational skills, children's programming also shows them prosocial behavior. This behavior that is socially acceptable is modeled for children and can include lessons on self-control, cooperation, sharing, helping, and tolerance for differences in others. One classic prosocial children's program is Mr. Roger's Neighborhood ("Children and television," 2008). Despite the research showing the positive educational benefits of television, this medium is often criticized for interfering in education.

There are complex relationships between television viewing and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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