Why some kids can't get enough of TV


Your child’s own temperament could be driving the amount of TV he or she watches, according to new research from the University of East Anglia and Birkbeck, University of London.

Researchers found that the brain responses of 10-month-old babies could predict whether they would enjoy watching fast-paced TV shows six months later.

Dr Teodora Gliga, from UEA’s School of Psychology, comments: ‘The ability to pay attention to something is one of the first developmental milestones in babies. Even before they can ask questions, children vary greatly in how driven they are to explore their surroundings and engage with new sights or sounds.’

There are various theories as to why babies appear to be so different in the way they seek out new visual stimulation – such as being attracted to bright colours or moving images on TV. One is that babies who are less sensitive will seek less stimulation, and another is that some babies are faster at processing information – an ability which could drive them to seek out new stimulation more often.

‘Our study supports a third theory: that a preference for novelty makes some infants seek more varied stimulation, says Dr Gliga.

The researchers studied brain activity in 10-month old babies while they watched a clip from Disney’s Fantasia on repeat. They studied how the children’s brain waves responded to random interruptions to the movie – in the form of a black and white chequerboard suddenly flashing on screen.

Dr Gliga says: ’Some of the babies started responding to the checkerboard early on while still learning about the video – suggesting that these children had had enough of the old information. Others remained engaged with the video even when there was not much to learn from it. The speed at which babies switched their attention to the chequerboard predicted how much they would enjoy fast paced TV shows six months later.’

Now researchers will look at what drives these individual differences, including the role of early environment. Elena Serena Piccardi from Birkbeck, University of London, comments: ‘This will help us understand how individualised environments may nurture children’s learning, promote their cognitive development and support achievement of their full potential.’

Sensor nets measure what a baby's brain pays attention to.

Credit: Birbeck.