18 01 03

Topics: Television program, Television, Mass media Pages: 24 (10782 words) Published: November 19, 2014
Media and Young Children’s Learning

Media and Young Children’s Learning
Heather L. Kirkorian, Ellen A. Wartella, and Daniel R. Anderson Summary
Electronic media, particularly television, have long been criticized for their potential impact on children. One area for concern is how early media exposure influences cognitive development and academic achievement. Heather Kirkorian, Ellen Wartella, and Daniel Anderson summarize the relevant research and provide suggestions for maximizing the positive effects of media and minimizing the negative effects.

One focus of the authors is the seemingly unique effect of television on children under age two. Although research clearly demonstrates that well-designed, age-appropriate, educational television can be beneficial to children of preschool age, studies on infants and toddlers suggest that these young children may better understand and learn from real-life experiences than they do from video. Moreover, some research suggests that exposure to television during the first few years of life may be associated with poorer cognitive development. With respect to children over two, the authors emphasize the importance of content in mediating the effect of television on cognitive skills and academic achievement. Early exposure to ageappropriate programs designed around an educational curriculum is associated with cognitive and academic enhancement, whereas exposure to pure entertainment, and violent content in particular, is associated with poorer cognitive development and lower academic achievement. The authors point out that producers and parents can take steps to maximize the positive effects of media and minimize the negative effects. They note that research on children’s television viewing can inform guidelines for producers of children’s media to enhance learning. Parents can select well-designed, age-appropriate programs and view the programs with their children to maximize the positive effects of educational media.

The authors’ aim is to inform policymakers, educators, parents, and others who work with young children about the impact of media, particularly television, on preschool children, and what society can do to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs.

Heather Kirkorian is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. Ellen Wartella is a professor, executive vice chancellor, and provost at the University of California–Riverside. Daniel Anderson is a professor at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.

VOL. 18 / NO. 1 / S PR ING 2008



Heather L. Kirkorian, Ellen A. Wartella, and Daniel R. Anderson

ince television first appeared in
the nation’s living rooms in the
middle of the twentieth century,
observers have voiced recurrent
concern over its impact on viewers, particularly children. In recent years, this concern has extended to other electronic
screen media, including computers and
video game consoles. Although researchers
still have much to learn, they have provided
information on the links between electronic
media, especially television, and children’s
learning and cognitive skills. The message is
clear: most (if not all) media effects must be
considered in light of media content. With
respect to development, what children watch
is at least as important as, and probably more
important than, how much they watch.

Until the 1980s, social
science researchers had only
an implicit theory of how
viewers watched television.
In this article we review media research with
an emphasis on cognitive skills and academic
achievement in young children. We begin by
arguing that by age three, children are active
media users. We then discuss important
aspects of child development that highlight
the debate over whether children younger
than two should be exposed to electronic
media, emphasizing the apparent video
deficit of infants and toddlers in which they
learn better from...
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