Thursday, December 08, 2011

Effects of Television on Child Development

While many parents are aware that having the television on constantly around their children can have a negative impact on their young child, the degree of television's impact is often ignored or thought to be negligible. In a recent study published in the professional journal Child Development, it was discovered that even as background noise, television has a measurable impact on a child's cognitive abilities.

Attention Span and Television

Frequently, parents will watch television or have it on in the background while their kids are playing in the same room. Although the children may show little or no interest in the television programming,
the study published in Child Development indicates that even as background noise, the simple fact of having the television on can impact a child.

In this study, children were allowed period of time where they played with the television on, and then a period of play time with the television off. The primary difference between these two play periods was in the amount of time their attention was engaged in play. With the television on, children spent far less time looking at toys and in focused engaged play activities than they did when the television was not on.

This finding is significant because it may be an indication that having a television on at home, even if the children do not appear to be watching or interested in the television programming, can be extremely distracting for children. With a constant barrage of changing visual images and sounds, it may be that children have difficulty filtering out this excess stimulation, making it hard for them to concentrate on developmental tasks such as learning through playing.

Cognitive Function and Television

In a study with similar findings published in
Pediatrics, researchers discovered that the type of programming also had a significant impact on cognitive function in children. In this study, children were allowed to watch a fast-paced cartoon and then asked to perform several executive level cognitive tasks that involved delayed gratification and simple stacking activities.

Researchers discovered that children who watched the television programming performed more slowly on executive level cognitive function activities than control children who sat quietly drawing for the same period of time. Although the effects of watching fast-paced television programming appeared to be temporary in this study, it cannot help but beg the question of the impact that constant bombardment of television has on a child's development.

Recommended Hours of Television for Children

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, American children under the age of six watch an average of two hours of television a day. Children over the age of six watch an average of four hours of television daily. Also, older children tend to  spend
two hours of additional time either in front of a computer screen or playing video games. This is a large amount of time that children spend every day watching television, instead of playing, reading or being engaged in other healthier activities. High amounts of sedentary activity, such as playing video games and watching television are also associated with higher incidences of obesity and other health problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two watch zero hours of television daily. Further, they recommend that children over the age of two watch no more than one or two hours of television daily.

During the early years of a child’s development, children need to be allowed to play in environments free of unnecessary or overly stimulating distractions. Even as children get older, large amounts of television can prevent children from needed developmental tasks such as physical activity, academic pursuits and socialization with other children and their family. Parents should limit the amount of time their children are exposed to television, even if they are not actively watching the programming. Instead, encourage your kids to engage in healthy play that simulates their imagination, creativity and social skills.

Elaine Hirsch

Monday, December 05, 2011

What are the Top Five Apps to Help Prevent Distractions?

If you work from home, you know how little distractions that take fifteen minutes out of your day can really add up. These can come in the form getting lost surfing the web, playing a quick game of Angry Birds, or listening to your favorite radio show, which are all detrimental whether you're trying to meet a deadline in the office or complete your dissertation. While these are all important aspects of daily living, finding the time to manage your schedule so you can get things done can be hard without the proper guidance. Check out these top five anti-distraction apps that will help you stay on track while you work from home.

Stay Focusd

Have you ever told yourself you would take a five-minute break to watch a video on YouTube but still find yourself glued to the monitor watching cat videos an hour later?
Stay Focusd addresses this issue by providing you with an easy-to-use blacklist for sites that you find too distracting. You can set the maximum allowed time you want to be able to use these distractive sites in a 24-hour period and after that time expires, the extension will no longer let you browse those sites. It is easy to set up and is seamlessly designed for Google Chrome.

Focus Booster

The pomodoro technique has long been thought of as an easy means to give yourself a small break while getting more work done throughout the day. The general idea is to give yourself 55 minutes of work time and five minutes of break time so that you stay focused on the task at hand. Focus Booster is an Adobe Air application that runs on your desktop. You can customize the time to give yourself as much as 15 minutes of break time. Focus Booster also comes in the form of a web app called Focus Booster Live if you don't want to download anything to your desktop.

Read It Later

If browsing RSS feeds causes you to lose a lot of time during your day, then
Read It Later is the perfect companion to minimizing distractions. If you find a page you want to save until later, you can install one of the many extensions for Firefox, Chrome, or Safari and click a small button to add the page to your Read It Later account. When you have time to read everything you saved throughout the day, simply open the page. Read It Later also offers iOS and Android apps and cleans up unnecessary clutter so you only see the content you want to see.

Mr. Number

One of the most annoying things about smartphones is that they can be distracting when you need to get work done. If you want to prevent being distracted by someone constantly calling you or sending you texts, Mr. Number can help. You can block any phone number for any period of time. Mr. Number is available for Android smartphones.

Shush! Ringtone Restorer

One of worst things about silencing your phone to avoid distractions is forgetting to turn it back on when it is needed. Shush! solves this problem by allowing you to silence your phone for a specific period of time. Simply use the volume rocker to silence the phone and a window will pop up asking how long you would like to keep the phone silenced. Once that time period has passed, the phone will return to its previous volume level. Shush! is available for Android phones.

Of course, minimizing the distractions you suffer while using your computer depends on your own willpower. Apps like Stay Focusd include methods to keep you from circumventing their settings such as having to type an entire paragraph of text error free, but sticking to your guns and using these tools as a supplement rather than a crutch is always the best way to get things done in a timely manner.

Elaine Hirsch