Do Children Learn Anything from TV?

I have been told a million times that I shouldn’t let my daughter watch TV because it will slow her intellectual development. Have you been told that too? It seems to be a common thought, but is it true for all children? As we all know, children are different and therefore certain things effect them differently. I, for one, think my daughter has learned a great deal in the selected shows we have picked for her so I believe that TV can be a great thing for children and here is why.

My daughter has been complimented all the time for her talking skills from as young as two to the present. Then they comment on how we must take her to all these enrichment activities and read to her all the time. Frankly, my daughter was not been one for books until she was almost four. She just wouldn’t sit for them so reading was a no. Then we were young and broke and couldn’t afford enrichment programs so that wasn’t anything towards her talking. The one thing we did have though was the radio, CDs and TV.

I believe allowing my daughter to watched controlled amounts of TV since she was little actually has helped her vocabulary abilities because she has been able to see how the English language is used outside of our home and in a more complex sequence than the basic English used in children’s books. To be honest, I get bored really fast with children’s books because they are so basic. I am loving the books that are for four year olds and kindergarteners because they have more depth and I think that was the missing element for my daughter too. The TV programs gave her that deeper knowledge bank of vocabulary than a book on the ABCs or farm animals. She wanted more depth to the content.

Now, I am not saying just put your kid in front of the TV and never do anything with them. We watched the shows with our daughter after we screened them to make sure they were appropriate for her. We used the same strategy people use when they read aloud to their kids by asking questions and using prediction skills but it was just in the TV show. For example, when there was a show about someone being a bully we were there to talk about what a mean person is and how our daughter thinks of the bully’s behavior. I would have done the same thing if I had read the book to her. I would have applied it to her background knowledge and her life in order for the lesson from the show to make sense.

How is that totally different from reading? Well, there is the whole phonetic awareness thing, but that wasn’t a problem for my daughter. She started being interested in the ABCs around three and wanting to write just before four years old. She recognized her name and almost every letter in the alphabet around that same time. For being not even four years old at that point was very good.

But according to the experts that isn’t suppose to happen. If anything my daughter should be riddled with ADHD and unable to sit still for long periods of time and not able to have a conversation due to poor language skills because she watched TV instead of reading a book. I am here to relieve your of that fear. Just because your kid watches TV doesn’t mean they will turn into a zombie that can’t learn. That is very much the opposite of what I am trying to say.

Actually my daughter has a wonderful attention span now. Before she would sit maybe for a minute at a time before moving on to something else. Now she is able to sit through a whole movie and be actively engaged with it. She sings and dances to the songs and already has the vocabulary skills and the articulation ability to sing along with the songs. Would she have been able to do that with a book, probably, but she was definitely able to learn it from her developmentally appropriate TV shows.

The other thing that has been a benefit from TV is that my daughter gets to have a taste of social interaction since she is a singleton. Now, she has friends and anyone who has singletons know that you have to get together with friends a lot or you will go insane, but she has the chance to be exposed to concepts like sharing, telling the truth, giving compliments and flat out being nice by watching TV since she doesn’t have a sibling to try all that on at home. So for me, the social impact of TV is benefit enough so my daughter does know how to act in public because the scene is acted out for her instead of just reading a few sentences in a book and looking at a pretty picture. There is that real world experience embedded in watching something play out to its fullness like a movie or TV show.

So if you are worried that your child isn’t going to learn something from a TV show that is developmentally appropriate don’t worry about it. Like my daughter, your child might be more of a visual learner who thinks right now books are too boring to work with. It won’t be like that forever. Now that the books are becoming more interesting and she has the foundation to understand the social settings going on in the books, my daughter is enjoying me reading to her and I am enjoying it now too. She is right on track for kindergarten and we are so proud of her accomplishments.

That is the key. As long as your child knows you love them and are proud of them they will succeed whether they read it from a book at the age of two or watch it explained by a character on a TV show. They will be able to have the skills to be the best they can be. So don’t worry about being the perfect parent and don’t worry if your kid watches some TV. In the right amounts, with the right content, TV can be a tool to give your child access to the world outside your home and a way to have them learn in the style that fits them.


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