April 23, 2008
Television’s Effect On Reading And Academic Achievement
Did you know?
- American children, ages 2-17, watch television on average almost 25 hours per week or 3 ½ hours a day. Almost one in five watch more than 35 hours of TV each week (Gentile & Walsh, 2002).
- Twenty percent of 2- to 7-year-olds, 46% of 8- to 12-year-olds, and 56% of 13- to 17-year-olds have TVs in their bedrooms (Gentile & Walsh, 2002).
- Children spend more time watching television than any other activity except sleeping.
- Television’s impact on reading and other academic skills depends not only on the amount of television watched, but also on what is being watched as well as the age of the child (Reinking, 1990).
- Successful readers read often.
- Studies have shown that children who watch carefully constructed educational programs that are aimed at their age level (such as Sesame Street), do better on pre-reading skills (at age 5) than children who watched infrequently or not at all (MacBeth, 1996, Wright, et al., 2001).
- These same studies further show that children who watch cartoons or other purely entertainment television shows during their pre-school years, do poorer on pre-reading skills at age 5 (MacBeth, 1996).
- Children between the ages of 3 and 5 are at a critical stage in brain development for the development of language and other cognitive skills. The extent to which heavy television viewing can influence the development of brain neural networks, and displaces time the child would spend in other activities and verbal interactions, influences early cognitive development.
Early elementary school age children
- Children achieve more success in early reading skills if they have experience with books and other print media, and were read to as preschoolers.
- Television can influence the acquisition of these early reading skills in two ways:
- Reading fluency only comes with practice. Most children need frequent practice of reading skills before reading becomes a pleasure. When television displaces the time a child would otherwise spend on reading practice, that child is delayed in acquiring reading skills (Comstock, 1991).
- In one study, children who watch cartoons and other more entertainment television programs were less likely to spend time with books or other print media (Wright & Huston, 1995).
Older school children
- In a national education study, students reported spending 4 times as many hours each week watching television as doing homework (Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1990).
- Children who are heavy TV viewers (over 3 hours per day), show the greatest decline in reading ability (Reinking & Wu, 1990).
- Another study found that a television on in the background interferes with the retention of skills and information during homework time (Armstrong, 1991).
- Patterns set in the early pre-school years with regard to television viewing can snowball as the child gets older and school work becomes harder. Children who watched informative, educational television as a pre-schooler, watch more informative television as they get older and use television as a complement to school. Children who watched more entertainment television, watched fewer informative programs as they got older and used television more to entertain and as a leisure pastime (MacBeth, 1996).
- In a long-term study of high schoolers, researchers found that viewing educational television programs as pre-schoolers was associated with higher grades, more reading, less aggression and more value placed on academics when those children reached high school (Anderson, et al., 2001).
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that total television time be limited to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day.
- They also recommend that programs watched should be geared to the age of the child, non-violent in nature and should reinforce language and social skills.
- Parents should establish healthy television viewing habits in the pre-school years. Young children’s television viewing should be limited to careful, thought-out, educationally-oriented programs.
- To foster reading skills, give your young child exposure to books. Read to them often. Support your early reader with reading practice and limit television viewing.
- Homework should be completed away from background television.
- Anderson, D. R., Huston, A. C., Schmitt, K. Linebarger, D. L., & Wright, J. C. (2001). Early childhood television viewing and adolescent behavior: The recontact study. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 66, (Serial No. 264).
- Armstrong, G. B., Boirsky, G. A., & Mares, M-L. (1991, September). Background television and reading performance. Communication Monographs, 58.
- Comstock, George, with Paik, Haejun (1991). Television and the American Child. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.
- Gentile, D.A., Walsh, D. A. (2002, January 28). A normative study of family media habits. Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 157-178.
- MacBeth, Tannis (editor) (1996). Tuning Into Young Viewers. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications.
- Office of Educational Research and Improvement (1988). National education longitudinal study of 1988. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
- Reinking, D. and Wu, J. (1990, Winter). Reexamining the research on television and reading. Reading Research and Instruction, 29, 30-43.
- Searls, D.T., Mead, N.A., and Ward, B. (1985). The relationship of students’ reading skills to TV watching, leisure time reading and homework. Journal of Reading, 29, 158-162.
- Wright, John C., Huston, Aletha C., (1995). Effects of educational TV viewing of lower income preschoolers on academic skills, school readiness, and school adjustment one to three years later. Lawrence, KS: Center for Research on the Influences of Television on Children.
- Wright, John C., Huston, Aletha C., Murphy, Kimberlee C., Peters, Michelle St., Pinon, Marites, Scantlin, Ronda, and Kotler, Jennifer (2001, October). The relations of early television viewing to school readiness and vocabulary of children from low-income families: The early window project. Child Development,72, 1347-1366.