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Media may impact childrens' learning
By Allison Matthews
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Children love watching favorite television programs or movies, but when they are glued to the screen too much during development years, experts say the results get two thumbs down.
"Many studies are showing that media in large doses can have a significant negative impact on children," said Linda Patterson, Extension health specialist at Mississippi State University.
Health providers and teachers across the country are reporting faltering academic abilities, attention problems and language difficulties with both reading comprehension and oral expression. Patterson said research suggests a strong link between many of these growing problems and excessive use of media.
"Children watch so much television today. They also play video games, watch movies and use the computer much more than kids did just a few years ago," Patterson said.
When children participate heavily in these media activities, they tend to lessen other important activities that aid in development of reading, social and some types of thinking skills. Other concerns are that they maintain good eyesight and physical fitness.
Large doses of media may hamper development of the pre-frontal cortex -- the area responsible for planning, organizing and sequencing behavior for self-control, moral judgment and attention.
"Researchers believe this may be one explanation of the widespread problem of attention deficit disorder and some behavior problems," Patterson said.
While some children have always been more prone than others to attention problems, the instance of cases has increased, and studies have linked the rise to the concurrent rise of media in the day-to-day activities of children.
Louise Davis, Extension child and family development specialist, said the visual nature of television or other media stimulus does not develop the part of the brain responsible for language.
"Children who watch too much television and do not read enough may have trouble paying attention and listening carefully enough to comprehend language. It is important for parents to take time for reading out loud to their children and helping them develop their own reading and comprehension skills," Davis said.
Davis recommended parents make plans with their children for weekly television viewing.
"Select which shows you will allow children to watch instead of just leaving the television on all the time," Davis said.
Children who have television sets in their own rooms tend to watch more programs with less supervision. Adults should be available to watch with their children to ensure they view appropriate programs. Emphasize that homework comes first and that it requires a student's full attention, without the distraction of television.
"With a little thoughtful planning, parents should be able to protect their children from the negative effects of media. Keep common sense in mind," Patterson said. "If children watch television all the time, then they will not get the three to four hours of vigorous activity and play time needed for healthy development, and they will not read and converse with their parents enough to develop some very important social skills."