Want Your Kid to Learn More? Watch TV With Him. Really.

We've been told to coach our kids' soccer teams.  Sit with them at tea parties.  And when they're older, try to get to know their friends (well, maybe not).

But a new study is now saying that watching TV with them is actually the key.

According to newswise.com, parents' presence when watching TV with kids affects their learning ability.  Can they think of anything else to blame us for??!!

The study shows an increased physiological change in children when parents view programs with them as opposed to being in a separate room.

While the web site noets that parenting today, for many, has become nothing more than sitting a child in front of a television or handing them a device that plays their favorite video, other studies show that kids become more interested in activities when their parents are involved. And it’s not just being a coach for their child’s youth sports team or attending the school play. It could be as simple as watching TV with the child instead of treating the device like a babysitter.

The study examined the physiological behavior of children who watched television with a parent and those who watched alone.

Using their college’s facilities at Texas Tech, researchers discovered a definitive change in a child’s heart rate and skin conductance, which measures how well the skin becomes a conductor of electricity when stimulated, when that child watches a program with the parent as opposed to watching it with the parent out of the room.

That physiological change is an indicator of how much effort is put into learning from the program as the brain-body connection relates the importance of the program to the parent’s presence.

“I think this is the first time that anybody has looked at the question of why kids seem to learn better from TV when their parent watches them,” says Texas Tech's Eric Rasmussen, an assistant professor of public relations and Justin Keene, an assistant professor of journalism and electronic media, whose research focuses on children and the media and discusses the topic through his blog, ChildrenAndMediaMan.

“All of the other research we know of looks at what happens to children’s learning patterns when the parents are in the room. This is the first time I know of that people are exploring what might be the reasons why children learn better when the parent is in the room.”

Why does this happen?  Some theories suggest the kids determine the program’s importance by the parent’s presence, and others theorize the children determine the program must meet the parent’s approval if they are watching with the child.

Regardless of the motivation, the results were clear – parents who want their children to have a better understanding of the programs they are watching need to be present with their child, sitting next to them, watching the program. It’s known as co-viewing.

“If parents are watching with them, they should know the kids learn things more if they watch with them, whether it’s violence, sex, language, whatever,” Rasmussen adds. “This really suggests that parents need to be more aware of their influence because parents have that influence whether they think they do or not. Just being there is making a difference.”

In the study, some parents watched a clip about whales or men fighting nature, sitting right beside the child on a couch. In other instances, the parent was completely out of the room, out of sight of the child. The heart rate and skin conductance monitors clearly showed an increase of both when the parent was in the room with the child as opposed to when the parent was out of the room, thus indicating a heightened indicator of the effort to learn by the child.

“Researchers have shown that kids are more interested in activities in which the parents are involved, whether that’s at school or reading or whatever,” Rasmussen says. “It makes sense then that kids would be more interested in TV if the parent is more interested in that as well. I think parents being involved in a kid’s life means a lot to kids whether they know it or not.”

And, maybe, the results of this research are as much of a wake-up call to parents as it is an indication of the behavior of the child.


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