Young Children’s Behavior and Psychophysiological Markers While Playing in the Context of Television

Children and Screens

Different types of television program may have different effects on children’s attention and play. This study used behavioral and psychophysiological measure to examine how children play in the presence of child-directed and adult-directed TV programs. Preliminary findings on 21 children (ages 3-5) reveal several TV-related effects. Compared to playing in a TV-free environment, children in the presence of adult-directed TV spend less time attending to their toys and have slower heart rates. Compared to either TV-free or adult-directed TV environments, children in the presence of child-directed TV spent less time attending to their toys, more time attending to the TV, moved less, and had slower heart rate. The heart rate effects may reflect children’s cognitive engagement with television content. This could support learning in the case of educational, age-appropriate television programming.