Too much time in front of the television can blunt young children’s ability to accept and understand others, says the latest research.
Theory of mind is something that children typically develop during the preschool years — it’s the ability to start teasing apart individual mental states, like beliefs, intents desires, and pretending, and understand that others may not have the same views. Child development experts say that this ability is critical for social development and that without it, it’s difficult for children to understand morality and recognize deception. If it’s not fully developed, for example, a child may think that everyone prefers a cookie over a carrot because that’s his personal preference.
How does television, with its depictions of fantasy worlds and reality, influence such development? To find out, researchers from the Ohio State University School of Communication studied the relationship between preschoolers’ TV viewing and their grasp on mental states.
The team interviewed the parents of 107 children between ages three years to six years old about how many hours a television was left on in the house, regardless of whether anyone was watching it, during three time periods on an average weekday and during an average weekend. The parents were also asked about whether the kids had TVs in their bedroom — 20% did.
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