Couch potatoes do better!

All those warnings that watching too much television damages children’s academic performance are plain wrong, according to new research from London University’s Institute of Education.

The new study has found that children who are glued to the screen for hours every day significantly outperform classmates who watch less, the Daily Mail reports.

While TV has always been accused of damaging young brains, youngsters who watch for three or more hours a day are three months ahead of those who watch less than an hour a day. The research, part of the Millenium Cohort Study, used test results for 11,000 British seven year-olds who have been tracked since birth.

Dr. Alice Sullivan, the report’s lead author, admitted that the results were ‘contrary to expectations’ but suggested that the educational value of children’s education had been ‘underestimated’.

Other academics doubt the findings. Professor Frank Furedi from the University of Kent said: “Parents’ intuition will tell them there are better things to be doing than sitting in front of a screen.” Literacy specialist Sue Palmer added: “If TV becomes the default activity for young children, they are less likely to become rounded individuals.”

As a teacher, do you think this research is credible? If you’re a parent, do you welcome the news that you no longer need to limit the amount of time your children spend watching TV?

6 thoughts on “Couch potatoes do better!

  1. As a parent and teacher. I am of the view that every child is a unique learner and we should scaffold learning from the intrests of children. My daughter loves Tv and I encourage her to experience in real life, and make connections with the things she sees, eg playing along to favourite songs with instruments, cooking after a cookery show and some arts and crafts after mister maker for example. Sometimes shows like charlie and lola and peppa pig help introduce language that i wouldnt expect a 2 year old to use. My daughter says things like ‘thats ridiculous ‘and ‘that drink was very refreshing’.

    I believe those who are quick to judge the use of tv in a negative light are of a very biased an uninformed generation who themselves are guilty of using it inappropriately so will therefore never see the positive possibilities

  2. My daughter is now 13 and in the Top Set for everything. She passed her Primary Sats at level 5 and in my opinion it’s all about what the children are watching and what they do when they’re not watching it. Researchers have always seemed to conclude that all TV is bad TV. Far from it. I have always made a point of watching with my daughter for the most part. Talking her through what she sees, making sure she avoids (as far as I can see) pointless TV like Spongebob. Disney type dramas / comedies teach social skills and are very inclusive. Factual shows like Roar, Horrible Histories and Art Attack teach in a fun way. From an early age she’s enjoyed cookery shows, The Apprentice and QI for instance. With many households now having On Demand TV and Catch UP TV the children can watch programmes that were previously barred to them because of late showings. She can watch hours of it, but equally she can spend a whole weekend away with the Brownies or the Guides, we might spend a day at a museum or out walking, she’ll read 3 novels in a week. Now if all she’d ever watched was poor cartoons, smash-em up movies and music shows then fair enough but I count TV as being a good part of her broader education – from the days when we watched Teletubbies together to now when at 13 she can watch Waterloo Road with me and we can discuss the topic of the day whether it be bullying, drugs, immigration, faithfulnesss or death. Her fitness is okay because she cycles to school and swims regularly. I have NO PROBLEM with TV at all if it’s watched wisely.

  3. Yes individual is what it is about. TV can broaden experience – and that will succeed most, surely, with children whose lives give them the narrowest experiences. Its when TV replaces experience for those children whose parents are well placed to give them the most that it will be a problem, I would have thought.

    My favourite books as a child were the Enid Blyton Magic Faraway Tree ones. As much from the fact that there was unlimited fruit growing on it, as from the different lands at the top of the tree. You don’t have to do too much to enrich some children’s life experiences!

  4. I agree. this research echoes the Microsoft experiment in giving street children access to the internet they explored they learned.

  5. It is not clear how does Dr Sullivan mean that the children’s educational value has been underestimated. I would like to know a bit more about this research to comment on it. It is typical to start commenting after knowing a little bit of information. For example, How many ‘couch potatoes’ was the research conducted on? What was their background or family life like? How many hours were they watching television for, considering there are about three workable decent hours for children after school before they have to go to bed. I’d like to know what kind of shows were they watching, were they watching random shows or educational programs? Were they alone or with their family or carers? Were they directed to watch or it was their choice?

    It is possible that their other needs, such as physical, educational, emotional, social and spiritual, are met elsewhere and therefore if they are watching TV in the evening it does not affect their cognitive development and henceforth they are able to portray contrary results.

    So I would have to agree with Sue Palmer’s comment on this report.

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