A recent study, published in the Journal of Children and Media, suggests that something as seemingly minor as background television noise can negatively impact the quantity and quality of parents’ spoken language to their children.
Previous research has shown most infants and toddlers pay little active attention to background television because the adult-directed programs are largely incomprehensible; however, very few studies have examined whether these background distractions affect children’s language development.
In the current study, parents of 49 toddlers aged 12, 24, and 36 months played with their children during a 60 minute session, with a television on in the background for half of the time. The researchers observed and recorded the quantity of words and phrases, and the number of new words spoken by parents during the sessions.
The results showed the quantity of words and phrases as well as the number of new words spoken to children was lower with the television on. Background television can compromise parent-child interactions regardless of whether the content is designed for adults or children.