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The Relation Between Television Exposure and Executive Function Among Preschoolers

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This study investigated the relations between television exposure during the preschool years and the development of executive function (EF). Data were gathered from 107 parents of preschoolers who provided information on children's television viewing, background television exposure, exposure to specific televised content, and the age at which children began watching television. Preschoolers' EF was assessed via one-on-one interviews. We found that several indicators of television exposure were significantly related to EF. These findings suggest that EF may be an important construct for continued research on the effects of media on young children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
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The Relation Between Television Exposure and Executive Function
Among Preschoolers
Amy I. Nathanson, Fashina Aladé, Molly L. Sharp, Eric E. Rasmussen, and Katheryn Christy
Ohio State University
This study investigated the relations between television exposure during the preschool years and the
development of executive function (EF). Data were gathered from 107 parents of preschoolers who
provided information on children’s television viewing, background television exposure, exposure to
specific televised content, and the age at which children began watching television. Preschoolers’ EF was
assessed via one-on-one interviews. We found that several indicators of television exposure were
significantly related to EF. These findings suggest that EF may be an important construct for continued
research on the effects of media on young children.
Keywords: preschoolers, television, executive function
Many children begin watching television during infancy and, by
preschool, have well-established television viewing habits that
include multiple hours in front of the set (Rideout, 2011). As a
result, the viewing habits of young audiences have become the
focus of many studies with a particular eye toward understanding
both the short-term and long-term implications of television ex-
posure at young ages (Wartella, Richert, & Robb, 2010). Research-
ers have found that early exposure to certain types of television is
related to poor school readiness and performance (Fitzpatrick,
Barnett, & Pagani, 2012), attention difficulties (Swing, Gentile,
Anderson, & Walsh, 2010), lower vocabulary scores (Zimmerman,
Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007), and impaired social skills (Conners-
Burrow, McKelvey, & Fussell, 2011). Many of these outcomes, as
well as other effects that researchers have been keen to link with
television exposure, may reflect a more fundamental deficit in
executive function (EF). The development of EF is crucial to both
cognitive and social functioning (Carlson & Moses, 2001;Kochan-
ska, Murray, & Harlan, 2000), yet this concept is rarely discussed
in research exploring the effects of media on children. The purpose
of this article was to investigate whether television exposure is
related to EF among preschoolers.
EF
EF refers to an interrelated set of higher order cognitive pro-
cesses that aid in planning, regulating, and controlling behavior
(Duncan, 1986;Pennington & Ozonoff, 1996). EF is a multidi-
mensional construct with three distinct subsets of skills: inhibitory
control, working memory, and attention flexibility (Miyake et al.,
2000). The regulation of these skills is believed to stem from the
brain’s frontal lobe, and, as such, EF is an important construct to
neuropsychologists in their identification of individuals with var-
ious disorders or abnormalities involving the brain, including
autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and se-
vere head injury (Barkley, 1997;Kleinhanz, Akshoomoff, & Delis,
2005;Nadebaum, Anderson, & Catroppa, 2007;Pennington &
Ozonoff, 1996). EF is also of interest to developmental psychol-
ogists because of its role in problematic everyday behaviors, such
as poor impulse control; difficulty following directions; trouble
maintaining focus on tasks; and more general behavioral, social,
and academic problems (Allan & Lonigan, 2011;Kim, Nordling,
Yoon, Boldt, & Kochanska, 2013;Uttendale & Hastings, 2011).
Young children frequently encounter challenges to their EF skills,
such as when they must override impulses and choose appropriate
behaviors (Rhoades, Greenberg, & Domitrovich, 2009).
The development of EF is believed to be a slow, gradual,
postnatal phenomenon in which children advance from reflexive,
reactive responses to goal-directed, self-regulatory behaviors
(Bernier, Carlson, & Whipple, 2010;Diamond, 2001;Kopp,
1982). Growth in this region of the brain is rapid between 2 and 5
years of age (Diamond, 2001) and individual differences in EF
emerge between ages 2 and 3 (Carlson, Mandell, & Williams,
2004). Although genetics play a role in the development of EF
(Goldberg & Weinberger, 2004), many believe that the combina-
tion of rapid growth and the malleability of the neurocognitive
system, especially during this time period, renders EF vulnerable
to environmental influences (Bernier, Carlson, Deschenes, &
Matte-Gagne, 2012;Zelazo & Carlson, 2012).
Some researchers have found that specific parenting behaviors,
such as attention-directing behaviors (Conway & Stifter, 2012) and
verbal scaffolding (Bibok, Carpendale, & Müller, 2009;Hughes &
Ensor, 2009), are related to EF performance, although the results
may depend on the child’s temperament and the EF skill assessed
(Conway & Stifter, 2012). Others have found that general parent-
This article was published Online First January 20, 2014.
Amy I. Nathanson, Fashina Aladé, Molly L. Sharp, Eric E. Rasmussen,
and Katheryn Christy, School of Communication, Ohio State University.
Fashina Aladé is now at the School of Communication at Northwestern
University. Eric E. Rasmussen is now at the Department of Public Rela-
tions at Texas Tech University.
Funding was received from the Ohio State University School of Com-
munication Miller Research Award provided to Amy I. Nathanson.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Amy I.
Nathanson, School of Communication, Ohio State University, Columbus,
OH 43210. E-mail: nathanson.7@osu.edu
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Developmental Psychology © 2014 American Psychological Association
2014, Vol. 50, No. 5, 1497–1506 0012-1649/14/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0035714
1497
ing behaviors, including positive affect, a sensitive and responsive
style, making appropriate commentary on children’s mental states,
and providing autonomy support, are also related to more devel-
oped EF (Bernier, Carlson, Bordeleau, & Carrier, 2010;Bernier,
Carlson, Deschenes, & Matte-Gagne, 2012;Kraybill & Bell, 2013;
Rhoades, Greenberg, Lanza, & Blair, 2011). Positive parenting
behaviors can facilitate EF development by promoting the inter-
nalization of morals and providing opportunities to practice and
develop self-regulation skills. Controlling, demanding, and puni-
tive environments can inhibit EF growth by depriving children of
opportunities to regulate their own behavior and requiring them to
continually adapt to another’s perspective (Talwar, Carlson, &
Lee, 2011).
EF and Television Exposure
Two studies to date have explored the link between television
viewing and EF among young children. First, Barr, Lauricella,
Zack, and Calvert (2010) examined the relation between television
exposure during infancy and EF at age 4. They found that children
who watched heavier amounts of adult-directed content at age 1
had weaker EF at age 4. Second, Lillard and Peterson (2011)
examined the immediate effects of exposure to a fast-paced car-
toon on 4-year-olds’ EF performance. Compared with children
who either viewed an educational cartoon on the American public
television network PBS or drew with markers and crayons, chil-
dren who saw the fast-paced cartoon performed worse on EF tasks
immediately after viewing. The authors argued that the rapid pace
and fantastical events in the cartoon may have exhausted chil-
dren’s cognitive resources and disadvantaged EF performance. It is
also possible that their study revealed that watching educational
cartoons or drawing improves EF.
Other researchers have investigated the link between television
exposure and outcomes associated with EF without actually mea-
suring EF itself. In fact, controversies surrounding the effect of
television on children’s attention span and other EF-related out-
comes have been active for several decades (Anderson & Collins,
1988). The research examining the relation between early televi-
sion exposure and attention difficulties has reported mixed results
(Anderson, Levin, & Lorch, 1977;Christakis, Zimmerman, DiGi-
useppe, & McCarty, 2004;Foster & Watkins, 2010;Salomon,
1979;Stevens & Muslow, 2006;Zimmerman & Christakis, 2007).
Other work suggests that greater exposure to television is related to
problems with impulse control (Gadberry, 1980) and weaker social
skills (Conners-Burrow, McKelvey, & Fussell, 2011). It remains
unclear whether these outcomes are due to EF impairment or not
because EF tasks were not administered in these studies.
Television exposure during early childhood may weaken EF
development for several reasons. First, as Lillard and Peterson
(2011) explained, the rapid pace of some television programs may
discourage the kind of processing that accompanies thoughtful,
deliberate actions. Fast-paced television, which is prevalent in
children’s programming (Huston et al., 1981), may place children
in a context in which they are continually anticipating change,
thereby rendering their responses primarily reactive in nature. In
an analysis of the formal features of DVDs designed for infants
and toddlers, Goodrich, Pempek, and Calvert (2009) found that
most programs contained rapid pacing, camera cuts, and other
perceptually salient features that attract attention but are difficult
for young children to understand. Moreover, commercials disrupt
storylines and themselves contain multiple audiovisual elements
that may attract and hold children’s attention (Valkenburg &
Vroone, 2004). Over the long term, exposure to this type of
programming may discourage children from practicing more de-
liberate and thoughtful information processing required to obtain
optimal performance on tasks requiring planning, persistence, and
patience.
This explanation may be most appropriate for describing very
young children’s reactions to entertainment programming. Accord-
ing to Huston and Wright (1983), very young children’s attention
to television is best characterized as reactive and dominated by
programs’ perceptually salient features. As children mature and
gain experience with the medium, they become more deliberate
processors whose attention is dictated by a program’s informative
cues (Anderson, Lorch, Field, & Sanders, 1981;Kirkorian, Ander-
son, & Keen, 2012). In addition, educational programs are typi-
cally less frenetic in their pacing and change than other genres
(Huston et al., 1981), and programs aired on public television lack
commercial interruptions. As a result, the possibility that heavy
television viewing conditions children to respond impulsively and
without goal-directed thought may not apply to older children or
youngsters who view mostly educational programming.
Second, television that is left on during the day, regardless of
whether anyone is watching or not, can result in a noisy, chaotic
environment. This “background television” exposure may repeat-
edly elicit children’s attention when youngsters are not purpose-
fully attending to it, thereby interfering with primary tasks, such as
playing (Schmidt, Pempek, Kirkorian, Lund, & Anderson, 2008).
Background television may be very difficult for young children to
ignore because of its captivating audiovisual elements that repeat-
edly produce orienting responses resulting in physiological
changes. In addition, background television may attract parents’
attention, thereby producing less and lower quality parent–child
interaction (Kirkorian, Pempek, Murphy, Schmidt, & Anderson,
2009). In this way, the presence of a television left on may harm
children’s EF.
Third, television exposure may be especially detrimental to EF
during periods of rapid brain development and plasticity (Ramirez
et al., 2013). The environment plays an important role in children’s
mental growth, especially during infancy (Bernier et al., 2010;
Marshall & Fox, 2004;Propper & Moore, 2006;Rhoades, Green-
berg, Lanza, & Blair, 2011), when it can “train” the infant’s
developing brain by repeatedly activating certain synaptic connec-
tions and pruning others (Glasser, 2000). As a result, certain
environments experienced during infancy can promote children’s
developing EF skills while others can weaken them (Bernier et al.,
2010;Kochanska, Murray, & Harlan, 2000;Propper & Moore,
2006;Rhoades et al., 2011). Television exposure, as a common
and increasingly dominant element of the environment, may exert
a stronger effect during infancy than during other developmental
periods. This possibility may explain the discrepant results ob-
tained by Stevens and Muslow (2006), who found no meaningful
relation between television viewing at age 5 and ADHD symp-
toms, and Christakis, Zimmerman, DiGiuseppe, and McCarty
(2004), who observed a significant relation between viewing at age
1 and later attentional problems.
Our goal was to examine the relation between EF and four
indicators of television exposure among preschoolers: cumulative
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1498 NATHANSON, ALADÉ, SHARP, RASMUSSEN, AND CHRISTY
or lifetime television viewing, cumulative exposure to background
television, the age at which children first became television view-
ers, and children’s viewing of specific television content. We
expected that indicators of heavy television exposure (i.e., greater
lifetime viewing, more lifetime background television exposure,
becoming a TV viewer at a younger age) would be related to worse
EF performance. We also asked whether children’s exposure to
specific content would be related to EF.
Method
Participants
A total of 107 preschoolers (M!53.37 months old, SD !8.7;
49.5% girls) and their parents (94% mothers) participated in this
study. Most parents were college educated (31.5%) or held a
graduate degree (37%), whereas 20% reported having completed
“some college,” 5.5% reported having completed “some graduate
school,” and 6% indicated they had completed high school or held
a GED. Parents indicated their average annual household income
by selecting one of six income categories, ranging from “less than
$10,000” to “$200,000 or more.” The largest percentage of partic-
ipants selected “$50,000 to $99,999” (30%), followed by “$25,000
to $49,999” (18%), “$100,000 to $149,999” (18%), “$200,000
or more” (13%), “$150,000 to $199,999” (10%), “$15,000 to
$24,999” (5%), “less than $10,000” (4%), and “$10,000 to
$14,999” (2%). Approximately 59% of the participants would be
considered as low- to middle income, where middle income is
defined as household incomes between two thirds to double the
national median income, or $51,017 for 2012 (Pew Research
Center, 2012;U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Most parents reported
their race/ethnicity as Caucasian (80%), with 12% identifying as
African American, 3.5% identifying as multiracial, 2.5% identify-
ing as Hispanic, and 2% identifying as Asian. Information about
the languages spoken at home was not gathered.
Procedure
Participants were recruited from five preschools in a large,
midwestern city in the United States. Parents completed a ques-
tionnaire assessing demographics and the sleep and media habits
of the participating child. Children were interviewed individually
in a quiet location at their preschool by a trained researcher. In a
session lasting between 15 and 25 min, the interviewer adminis-
tered four EF tasks, a vocabulary assessment, and several other
tasks measuring theory of mind (for a separate study, Nathanson,
Sharp, Aladé, Rasmussen, & Christy, 2013) in a fixed order,
following the task administration guidelines of Carlson and Moses
(2001). Each child who participated received a small gift and each
parent was paid $25. All of the data were gathered during 2012.
Children’s Television Exposure
Parents provided estimates of their children’s exposure to tele-
vision. Because all of the participating children were enrolled in
preschool and therefore away from home for substantial periods of
time, it is likely that parents’ viewing estimates were lower com-
pared with estimates obtained from parents whose children do not
attend preschool.
Background television. Parents were asked to think about an
average day during the week and to report how many hours a TV
was left on (regardless of whether anyone was watching it or not)
during the morning hours (defined for them as “from the time the
child awakens until 12 pm”), the midday hours (defined as “be-
tween lunch time and dinner time”), and the evening hours (de-
fined as “between dinner time and the time your child goes to
bed”). They were asked to report the same information for an
average day on the weekend.
Television viewing by children. Parents reported how many
hours their child watches television during the three time periods
(morning, midday, and evening) on an average weekday and on an
average weekend day. Parents were informed that viewing esti-
mates should include “programs seen on a television, computer, or
via DVD or a portable electronic device.”
Age-of-TV-viewing onset. In an open-ended format, parents
reported the age at which their child first began watching televi-
sion. When necessary, responses were converted into months.
Children’s channel viewing. On a scale from 1 (never) to 4
(all of the time), parents reported how often their child watched
eight different networks or network types when they watched TV,
including the Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Nick Jr., Nick-
elodeon, Fox, Animal Planet, ABC/NBC/CBS (one question), and
PBS.
Children’s genre viewing. On a scale from 1 (never)to4(all
of the time), parents reported how often their child watched various
types of entertainment or educational content when they watched
TV, including “action cartoons (e.g., Dragon Ball Z, Kung Fu
Panda, Spider-man, Pokemon),” “classic cartoons (e.g., Looney
Tunes, Tom & Jerry),” “live action children’s programs (e.g.,
Power Rangers),” “fast-paced cartoons (e.g., The Fairly Oddpar-
ents, Phineas and Ferb, Sponge Bob Square Pants),” “situation
comedies for children (e.g., iCarly, Victorious, Good Luck Char-
lie, Shake it Up),” and “educational cartoons (e.g., Caillou, Dora
the Explorer, Super Why).”
Child Measures of EF
The EF measures were taken from Carlson (2005), who studied
the performance of over 600 toddlers and preschoolers on a variety
of EF tasks. We selected four EF tasks that were shown to work
well with preschoolers and that exhibited variation in difficulty
across ages 3–5. All of the measures or measure types have been
used successfully in prior work with children from a diverse age
range (Carlson, 2005;Carlson & Moses, 2001;Gerstadt, Hong, &
Diamond, 1994;Kochanska, Murray, & Coy, 1997;Passler, Issac,
& Hynd, 1985). Experimenters followed a script to ensure unifor-
mity in task administration.
Grass/snow task. Each child was shown a black poster board
with two child-sized felt hand shapes glued at the bottom center of
the board, a white card at the top right corner, and a green card at
the top left corner. The children were instructed to place their
hands on top of the hand shapes and then to point to the white card
when the experimenter said “grass” and point to the green card
when the experimenter said “snow.” The experimenter practiced
this with the child until the child demonstrated understanding of
the task. The experimenter then conducted 16 trials (presented in
a fixed, random order). The child’s first response to each trial was
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1499
TV EXPOSURE AND PRESCHOOLERS’ EXECUTIVE FUNCTION
recorded. Correct responses were given a score of 1 and incorrect
responses received a 0.
Whisper task. Children were asked to whisper their names
and were then presented with 10 laminated cards depicting cartoon
characters (six familiar, four unfamiliar) in a fixed, random order.
Children were asked to whisper the name of the character. Chil-
dren received 3 points for each answer they whispered, 2 points for
each answer they said in a normal voice, and 1 point for each
answer they shouted. Responses were averaged across the 10 trials.
Backward digit span task. Each child was introduced to a
puppet of Ernie from the children’s television program Sesame
Street. The experimenter told the child that Ernie was silly and that
whatever the experimenter said, Ernie would say backwards. The
experimenter demonstrated this to the child with numbers, saying
“1, 2” and then having Ernie repeat back “2, 1.” As a warm up to
the exercise, the experimenter invited the child to say “1, 2” to
Ernie and then had Ernie say “2, 1” back to the child. The Ernie
puppet was then put away, and the experimenter told the child that
they were going to try some more without Ernie. The experimenter
said, “Whatever I say, you say it backwards.” The experimenter
presented three trials of number sets with increasing difficulty,
beginning with a set of two numbers and increasing to sets of five
numbers. Testing stopped when children erred on three consecu-
tive trials at a given level. The highest level of success was
recorded (two, three, four, or five digits) and used as the child’s
score. Children received a score of 1 if they did not pass two digits.
Tower task. The children were informed that they were going
to take turns building a tower with 20 wooden blocks. The exper-
imenter first demonstrated the turn-taking (saying “first I go, then
you go”), and then began the tower building with the child. The
experimenter waited for either verbal or nonverbal cues from the
child that it was the experimenter’s turn. The experimenter re-
corded the number of times that he or she was given a turn. This
task was completed twice and scores were averaged across the two
trials.
Other Predictors
Children’s vocabulary. Children with stronger vocabular-
ies may perform better on EF assessments due to superior
understanding of the task instructions, among other reasons,
making vocabulary an important control variable (Bernier et al.,
2012;Carlson & Moses, 2001;Hughes & Ensor, 2009;Rhoades
et al., 2011). We used Missall and McConnell’s (2004) Picture
Naming Individual Growth and Development Indicator, which
consists of a set of 120 flashcards, each showing a color picture
of a familiar object (e.g., food, household objects). After a
practice session with four sample cards, the experimenter in-
structed the child to name as many pictures as he or she could
and then showed the child one card at a time in a random order
until 1 min had elapsed. The number of pictures named cor-
rectly served as the child’s vocabulary score.
Children’s sleep. The number of hours that children sleep at
night is related to both EF (Bernier et al., 2010) and television use
(Nevarez, Rifas-Shiman, Kleinman, Gillman, & Taveras, 2010).
We therefore measured and controlled for the total number of
hours that children sleep at night, as reported by parents.
Results
Preliminary Analyses
Children’s cumulative background television exposure.
Reports of background television were converted into minutes. We
then calculated two estimates of background television exposure
(during the week and the weekend) by summing across reports of
exposure during the three time periods. The sums were then
multiplied by either 5 (for the sum during the week) or by 2 (for
the sum during the weekend). Average daily background television
exposure was calculated by adding the two products together and
dividing by 7 (M!257.89, SD !217.59). We calculated chil-
dren’s cumulative exposure to background television by multiply-
ing our background television exposure estimates by the child’s
current age.
Children’s cumulative intentional television viewing.
Average television viewing estimates were calculated by convert-
ing reports into minutes and then creating two sums (viewing
during the week and viewing on the weekends). These sums were
then multiplied by either 5 (for weekday viewing) or 2 (for
weekend viewing). The two products were then summed and
divided by 7 to produce average daily viewing in minutes (M!
171.98, SD !119.42). Given that children’s television viewing
and attention levels usually increase in a linear fashion throughout
the preschool years (Anderson, Lorch, Field, Collins, & Nathan,
1986;Anderson & Levin, 1976;Roberts & Foehr, 2008), we
calculated children’s cumulative television exposure by subtract-
ing the child’s age of TV viewing onset (a) from the child’s current
age (A), multiplying the result by the child’s current television
viewing estimate (TV), and then dividing the product by 2, or
Cum. TV![(A"a)#TV]/2.
Children’s channel viewing. A principal-components factor
analysis with oblimin rotation of the eight channel viewing items
resulted in three factors explaining approximately 66% of vari-
ance. The first factor, explaining about 31% of the variance,
consisted of viewing of Fox, Animal Planet, and ABC/CBS/NBC.
The second factor included viewing of Cartoon Network, Disney
Channel, Nick Jr., and Nickelodeon and explained 21% of the
variance. The third factor consisted only of PBS viewing and
explained close to 13% of the variance. Two scales were con-
structed to reflect adult entertainment viewing (average of Fox,
Animal Planet, and ABC/CBS/NBC viewing) and children’s en-
tertainment viewing (average of Cartoon Network, Disney Chan-
nel, Nick Jr., and Nickelodeon). PBS viewing was retained as a
single-item measure of educational content viewing.
Children’s genre viewing. A principal-components factor
analysis with oblimin rotation of the six genre viewing items
revealed two factors, one representing viewing of action cartoons,
classic cartoons, and live action programs (explaining about 39%
of the variance), and another reflecting viewing of fast-paced
cartoons and situation comedies (explaining about 18% of the
variance). Responses to viewing of action cartoons, classic car-
toons, and live action programs were averaged to create a scale of
children’s action/violent entertainment viewing. Responses to
viewing of fast-paced cartoons and situation comedies were aver-
aged to create a scale of children’s comedy entertainment. Viewing
of educational cartoons did not load on either of these factors and
was retained as a single-item measure.
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1500 NATHANSON, ALADÉ, SHARP, RASMUSSEN, AND CHRISTY
Composite EF. Correlations among the EF tasks ranged from
.18 to .36. Scores on the grass/snow, whisper, backward digit span,
and tower tasks were standardized and then summed to create an
overall assessment of children’s EF. This enabled us to examine
the relation between television exposure and EF as a whole rather
than assign disproportionate weight to specific tasks that may have
unique task demands (Willoughby & Blair, 2011).
The descriptive statistics for all of the study’s measures are
displayed in Table 1.
Main Analyses
We constructed four regression models to address our prediction
that television exposure would be related to worse EF performance
(see Table 2). Model 1 included a group of “nonmedia predictors”:
parent’s education, income, the child’s age, preschool (dummy
coded), vocabulary, and sleep. Model 2 contained the nonmedia
predictors and added the age-of-TV-viewing-onset variable. With
this model, we observed whether and how the age of TV-viewing
onset contributed to the variance in EF while accounting for the
nonmedia predictors. Model 3 contained the nonmedia predictors,
the age-of-TV-viewing-onset variable and the measure of cumu-
lative background television exposure. This model allowed us to
observe whether children’s lifetime exposure to background tele-
vision contributed uniquely to EF performance when accounting
for the nonmedia predictors and the age at which children first
began viewing television. Model 4 was identical to Model 3 except
that cumulative intentional television viewing was included in-
stead of cumulative background television. Because cumulative
background exposure and cumulative viewing were highly corre-
lated, r(97) !.65, p$.001, we examined these predictors in
separate models. Missing data were omitted from the analyses.
In Model 1, the nonmedia predictors accounted for a significant
37% of the variance in EF, with child’s age and vocabulary
emerging as significant predictors. Model 2 explained a significant
7% of additional variance compared with Model 1. This model
revealed that children who began watching television at older ages
performed better on EF assessments than children who began
viewing at younger ages. In Model 3, cumulative background
television exposure explained a marginally significant amount of
variance, suggesting that heavier cumulative exposure to back-
ground television was related to weaker EF. In Model 4, children’s
cumulative television viewing explained a significant amount of
variance, with heavier lifetime exposure related to weaker EF.
With cumulative television viewing in the model, the age-of-TV-
viewing-onset variable became a nonsignificant predictor of EF.
Across all four models, we found that the strongest predictors of
EF were age, vocabulary, the age of first viewing, the cumulative
amount of time children had spent watching television, and the
number of sleep hours.
We constructed three regression models to address our ques-
tion of whether children’s exposure to specific content is related
to EF (see Table 3). To understand the unique contribution of
content viewing, we controlled for children’s cumulative tele-
vision viewing and cumulative background television exposure.
Model 1 contained the nonmedia predictors; Model 2 contained
the nonmedia predictors plus television exposure controls; and
Model 3 contained the nonmedia predictors, the television
exposure controls, and the measures of channel viewing and
genre viewing.
We found that Model 3 explained a significant 8% of additional
variance in EF compared with Model 2. Viewing of PBS was
associated with better EF performance, whereas viewing of edu-
cational cartoons was related to worse EF performance. With all of
the variables entered in Model 3, the significant predictors of EF
were children’s age, vocabulary, cumulative television viewing
time, sleep, educational cartoon viewing, and PBS viewing.
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics of All Measures
Measure M SD Observed range %or r, if applicable N
Parent education 4.5 1.34 2–6 107
Parent income 5.31 1.68 1–8 105
Child age (months) 53.37 8.7 38–74 107
No. hours sleep 10.04 1.1 6.5–12.0 105
Child vocabulary 19.98 6.3 7–35 106
Cumulative background TV (minutes) 13,573.45 11,160.51 0–67,680 105
Cumulative TV viewing (minutes) 3,162.08 2,483.71 0–10,597.71 99
Onset of TV view (months) 18.37 9.09 0–36 101
Adult entertainment viewing channels 1.25 .35 1.00–2.67 .67 102
Child entertainment viewing channels 1.96 .57 1.00–3.50 .70 102
Educational viewing channel (PBS) 2.2 .72 1–4 105
Action/violent viewing 1.50 .52 1.0–3.3 .70 106
Comedy viewing 1.61 .62 1.0–3.5 .45 107
Educational cartoon viewing 2.8 .76 1–4 106
Grass/snow 11.30 4.52 0–16 106
Whisper 2.74 .33 1.9–3.0 100
Tower 6.73 3.58 0–10 105
Back. digit span 1.76 1.20 1–5 104
Note. Categories for parent education were “less than high school”; “high school or GED”; “some college”; “college degree”; “some graduate school”;
and “graduate degree” (coded as 1–6, respectively). Categories of parent income were “less than $10,000”; “$10,000 to $14,999”; “$15,000 to $24,999”;
“$25,000 to $49,999”; “$50,000 to $99,999”; “$100,000 to $149,999”; “$150,000 to $199,999”; and “$200,000 or more” (coded as 1–8, respectively).
No. !number; Back. digit span !Backward digit span.
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1501
TV EXPOSURE AND PRESCHOOLERS’ EXECUTIVE FUNCTION
Discussion
The purpose of this study was to understand the relation be-
tween preschoolers’ television exposure and their EF. Despite EF’s
relevance to many of the social and cognitive outcomes that are
commonly studied as outcomes of television exposure, this con-
struct has been largely ignored in the literature. We found that
several indicators of television exposure were significantly related
to EF. These findings suggest that EF may be an important
construct for continued research on the effects of media on young
children.
Several forms of television exposure were negatively related to
EF. First, children who had spent a greater number of cumulative
hours viewing television had poorer EF than children who had
viewed fewer cumulative hours. Television provides a steady
stream of mostly fast-paced entertainment that provides quick
rewards and is perceived as “easy” to process (Salomon, 1984).
Watching television does not permit viewers, especially young
ones, much choice in extracting meaning from content or ponder-
ing characters or situations in ways that are incompatible with
what is depicted on the screen. Moreover, television, like an
attention-directing adult, requires children to continually engage,
disengage, and re-engage their attention to stimuli that may be
important to the program but are not of inherent interest to them.
It seems reasonable to suspect that television viewing is not
Table 2
Summary of Regression Analyses for Nonmedia and Media Variables Predicting Children’s Executive Function
Variable
Model 1: Nonmedia
predictors Model 2: Age-of-TV-
viewing onset Model 3: Cumulative
background TV Model 4: Cumulative TV
viewing
B SE B &B SE B &B SE B &B SE B &
Parent education ".14 .22 ".07 ".18 .21 ".09 ".28 .21 ".14 ".27 .21 ".14
Parent income .32 .19 .20 .30 .18 .20 .27 .18 .17 .25 .18 .16
Child’s age .11 .03 .36
!!!
.09 .03 .31
!!!
.11 .03 .36
!!!
.13 .03 .42
!!!
Preschool 1 ".53 .80 ".08 ".28 .77 ".04 ".32 .76 ".05 ".56 .77 ".08
Preschool 2 ".01 1.10 .00 "1.2 1.1 ".10 ".94 1.1 ".08 "1.3 1.1 ".11
Preschool 3 ".02 .76 .00 .10 .72 .02 ".21 .74 ".04 ".32 .75 ".06
Preschool 4 ".13 .76 ".02 ".46 .73 ".07 ".70 .73 ".11 ".69 .73 ".11
Child’s vocabulary .15 .04 .36
!!!
.14 .04 .33
!!!
.13 .04 .31
!!!
.13 .04 .30
!!!
Child’s sleep ".22 .24 ".10 ".34 .23 ".14 ".38 .23 ".16
".49 .24 ".21
!
Onset of TV view .09 .03 .30
!!!
.08 .03 .29
!!
.05 .03 .18
Cumulative back. TV "4.2 .00 ".18
Cumulative TV view .00 .00 ".26
!
Note. Cell entries for all models are standardized regression coefficients with all variables in the model entered into the equation. R
2
!.37, p$.001
for Model 1; R
2
!.44, p$.001 for Model 2; R
2
!.46, p$.001 for Model 3; R
2
!.47, p$.001 for Model 4. back. !background.
p$.10.
!
p$.05.
!!
p$.01.
!!!
p$.001.
Table 3
Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analysis for Nonmedia, Viewing Time, and Content Viewing Variables Predicting Children’s
Executive Function
Variable
Model 1: Nonmedia predictors Model 2: TV viewing time Model 3: TV viewing content
B SE B &B SE B &B SE B &
Parent education ".14 .23 ".07 ".30 .22 ".15 ".30 .22 ".16
Parent income .32 .20 .20 .24 .19 .15 .18 .18 .11
Child’s age .11 .03 .36
!!!
.15 .03 .49
!!!
.13 .03 .44
!!!
Preschool 1 ".53 .82 ".08 ".78 .78 ".11 ".79 .82 ".11
Preschool 2 ".01 1.1 .00 ".81 1.1 ".07 ".41 1.1 ".04
Preschool 3 ".02 .78 .00 ".56 .76 ".11 ".42 .82 ".08
Preschool 4 ".13 .04 ".02 ".67 .75 ".11 ".74 .76 ".12
Child’s vocabulary .15 .04 .36
!!!
.13 .04 .30
!!!
.13 .04 .31
!!!
Child’s sleep ".22 .24 ".10 ".50 .24 ".21
!
".66 .24 ".28
!!
Cumulative TV view .00 .00 ".36
!!
.00 .00 ".37
!!
Cumulative back. TV "5.7 .00 ".02 7.2 .00 .03
PBS .85 .32 .23
!!
Adult ent. channels ".46 .71 ".06
Child ent. channels ".35 .59 ".08
Children’s violent/action .23 .55 .05
Children’s comedy .40 .44 .09
Educ. cartoons ".84 .34 ".24
!!
Note. Cell entries for all models are standardized regression coefficients with all variables in the model entered into the equation. R
2
!.37, p$.001
for Model 1; R
2
!.45, p$.001 for Model 2; R
2
!.54, p$.001 for Model 3. back. !background; ent. !entertainment; Educ. !Educational.
!
p$.05.
!!
p$.01.
!!!
p$.001.
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1502 NATHANSON, ALADÉ, SHARP, RASMUSSEN, AND CHRISTY
conducive to developing skills in attention allocation, cognitive
flexibility, and working memory. It is important to note that we do
not know whether the relation between television viewing and EF
is causal or not. Even in the case of a causal relation, we do not
know the direction of causality or whether the relations might be
bidirectional.
Second, the age at which children first began watching TV was
related to preschoolers’ EF. Children who began watching televi-
sion at younger ages had weaker EF than children who became
viewers at older ages. There are several reasons why viewing
during infancy may be a risk factor for impaired EF development.
Brain development is rapid during the first years of life, and early
experiences can have profound effects on development (Kolb,
Forgie, Gibb, Gorny, & Rownree, 1998). As Glasser (2000) noted,
experiences in infancy contribute to the strengthening and pruning
of certain synaptic connections, which can result in longer term
effects on development. In fact, research has revealed that envi-
ronmental factors and parenting behaviors during infancy predict
EF performance among preschoolers (Kraybill & Bell, 2013;
Rhoades et al., 2011). Likewise, Christakis has argued that heavier
exposure to television at young ages shapes brain development,
resulting in outcomes including ADHD (Christakis, Ramirez, &
Ramirez, 2012;Zimmerman & Christakis, 2007). As a result,
exposure to television during this sensitive period of brain devel-
opment may have long-term effects on how children allocate their
attention and process information.
In addition, the type of material that infants view may be
especially problematic for EF. Programs directed at infants provide
“nonnormative stimulation” characterized by rapid pace and atyp-
ical sequencing, which may have adverse effects on infants’ cog-
nition and behavior (Christakis et al., 2012;Goodrich, Pempek, &
Calvert, 2009). Moreover, compared with other age groups, infants
should be most influenced by this nonnormative stimulation be-
cause they almost exclusively rely on a television program’s
perceptually salient stimuli for processing the material (Huston &
Wright, 1983). However, our data cannot reveal whether children
who began watching television during infancy consumed mostly
infant-directed videos or not. Continued research is needed to
understand why viewing during infancy may be detrimental to EF.
Two types of content exposure were predictive of EF. First, PBS
viewing was positively related to EF. PBS viewing may reflect
exposure to high-quality programming or storytelling without
commercials. Commercials not only disrupt storylines and require
children to perpetually disengage and re-engage with unfolding
stories but also contain high concentrations of perceptually salient
stimuli (Valkenburg & Vroone, 2004). The combination of high-
quality programming with the absence of commercials may enable
children to develop effective EF skills. Lillard and Peterson (2011)
also found that exposure to a PBS program was related to better EF
performance compared with exposure to a fast-paced program
aired on commercial television. Second, educational cartoon view-
ing was related to worse EF performance. Perhaps the addition of
educational lessons to an animated, stimulating format harms
children’s ability to engage in effective information processing.
Hudon, Fennell, and Hoftyzer’s (2013) factor analysis of toddlers’
television habits revealed that viewing of “educational programs,”
such as Dora the Explorer and Blues Clues, was not an indicator
of “quality” television viewing and not predictive of vocabulary
scores among bilingual toddlers. Because other work has revealed
that educational cartoon viewing was beneficial (Linebarger &
Walker, 2005), more research on this genre is needed.
Our study’s results have implications for how scholars under-
stand the effects of television on children. Many scholars are
interested in how television affects children’s social skills. To
behave in a nonaggressive and prosocial manner, children must
learn to inhibit impulsive behavior and perform less personally
desirable and often competing actions (e.g., expressing anger
through words rather than harmful physical displays) as well as
maintain social rules in working memory while applying them to
achieve desirable goals (e.g., sharing toys or asking for a turn
rather than grabbing or hoarding toys). Programs with aggressive
characters can provide negative role models that children may
imitate, and many studies have been conducted to investigate this
possibility (Christakis et al., 2013;Paik & Comstock, 1994). Our
work revealed that television may negatively affect children’s
social behavior by directly affecting cognitive functioning, which
may, in turn, manifest in poor social behavior. Unlike Barr et al.
(2010), we found that even exposure to presumably child-oriented
content (reflected in measures of children’s intentional television
viewing) was negatively related to EF.
In addition, our results suggest that researchers investigating the
predictors of EF may wish to consider the predictive value of
children’s television viewing time. The models that included tele-
vision exposure explained between 44% and 54% of the variance
in preschoolers’ EF, with cumulative viewing time, age-of-TV-
viewing onset, PBS viewing, and educational cartoon viewing
remaining significant predictors along with children’s age and
vocabulary scores. As with parenting behaviors, television expo-
sure may be an important environmental influence on EF.
Although not part of the major theoretical rationale for the
study, we found one surprising result involving the relation be-
tween sleep and EF. Contrary to prior work (Bernier et al., 2010),
we found that sleep was negatively related to EF. Post hoc analyses
revealed that although sleep shared a positive relation with EF at
the zero-order level, r(105) !.13, p!.19, the relation became
negative once controls were included. As part of our post hoc
analyses, we examined the interactions between sleep duration and
the other predictors and found that sleep interacted with the age-
of-TV-viewing onset variable in predicting EF (&!".89, p$
.05; no other interactions were significant). The relation between
sleep duration and EF was positive among children who began
watching TV at younger ages, but the relation was negative among
children who commenced TV viewing at an older age. When we
included this interaction in our models, our results became slightly
stronger or remained about the same. It is unclear why these
relations held. We encourage future research to replicate these
findings.
The quality of our measures is one of the study’s strengths.
Unlike other parent reports of background television, which rely
on single-item measures (e.g., Rideout, Vandewater, & Wartella,
2003;Vandewater et al., 2005), our measure required parents to
report the length of exposure in specific periods and on specific
days of the week. Moreover, we were able to construct cumulative
exposure measures. As with many risk factors, such as sun expo-
sure or cigarette smoke, individuals’ cumulative time spent view-
ing television may be uniquely related to outcomes. Finally, our
EF tasks reflected a combination of skills and were measured
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1503
TV EXPOSURE AND PRESCHOOLERS’ EXECUTIVE FUNCTION
directly instead of relying on parent report. Of course, other
measures of both television exposure and EF may be superior to
ours, such as diary reports or direct observations of children’s
viewing (Bryant, Lucove, Evenson, & Marshall, 2007;Vandewa-
ter & Lee, 2009), which may be less susceptible to biased report-
ing, or EF assessments that use more than four tasks. Our research
should be replicated using other valid measures of television
exposure and EF to determine whether and how our results vary
using different assessment tools.
There are several limitations of this study. First, the study was
correlational, and as a result, we cannot rule out the possibility that
parents respond to children with weaker EF performance by in-
creasing their television exposure. Children with poor impulse
control and difficulties maintaining attentional focus may be more
challenging to satisfy with play. In addition, because of the genetic
component of EF development (Goldberg & Weinberger, 2004;
Polderman et al., 2007), it is possible that parents with weaker EF
rely more on television to entertain their children (who may also
have weaker EF) than other parents. Finally, children with weaker
EF may prefer to watch more television, including more stimulat-
ing and fast-paced content. Consequently, television exposure may
be a response to children’s behavior rather than the cause of poor
performance.
Second, we cannot conclude whether EF is influenced by tele-
vision exposure per se or some other aspect of family life that is
correlated with high exposure. Parents who permit heavy viewing
may approach parenting differently than other caregivers (Sebire
& Jago, 2013). It could be that some aspect of this parenting style
is responsible for the relation between television exposure and EF,
such as decreased or lower quality parent–child communication.
Future work should measure both television exposure and other
aspects of parenting to determine whether observed relations are
due to television exposure, parenting, relationship quality, or some
combination of these factors.
In sum, this study suggests that television exposure is related to
higher order cognitive processes and that exposure during infancy
may be especially problematic for cognitive and social function
years later. Continued work is needed to understand the link
between children’s television viewing and EF. Given that EF is
implicated in a wide variety of social difficulties, researchers
should seriously consider the relevance of EF in explaining the
link between television exposure and social behavior.
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1505
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Received May 1, 2013
Revision received December 9, 2013
Accepted December 16, 2013 !
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1506 NATHANSON, ALADÉ, SHARP, RASMUSSEN, AND CHRISTY
... There have been many studies analyzing the relationship between the development of executive functions in preschoolers and the content of what children do and watch via digital devices (Barr et al., 2010;Conners-Burrow et al., 2011;Yang et al., 2017;Zimmerman & Christakis, 2007), as well as their screen time (Christakis et al., 2004;Cliff et al., 2018;Ebenegger et al., 2012;Landhuis et al., 2007;Martin et al., 2012;Nathanson et al., 2014;Özmert et al., 2002;Soldatova & Vishneva, 2019). The overwhelming majority of studies are of a correlational nature, so it is difficult to establish causal relationships with respect to the impact of use of such devices and the consequences for the development of self-regulation. ...
... Moreover, there is research that demonstrates that there are no significant links between use of gadgets and the self-regulation level (Blankson et al., 2015), and the family environment and the social status of the family play a key role in the development of executive functions, self-control, planning and control functions . However, the results of most studies allow us to conclude that the potential impact of the nature and content of activities on the children's self-regulation development depends on the type of exposure (background TV or purposeful use of gadgets), on the type of content (educational or recreational content) Yang et al., 2017;Zimmerman, Christakis, 2007), on the age-appropriateness of the content (age-appropriate or inappropriate, including violent content (Barr et al., 2010;Conners-Burrow et al., 2011), on the degree of its realism (fantastic or realistic content , on the complexity of the stimulus material (black-and-white, color visual or sound stimulation) (Bellieni et al., 2010), on the duration of screen time Nathanson et al., 2014) as well as on individual and family factors. ...
... There are a number of studies describing the relationship between the gadgets' time of use and the level of executive functions development. It has been demonstrated that prolonged use of gadgets correlates with lower indicators of executive functions, self-regulation, attention and hyperactivity (Christakis et al., 2004;Cliff et al., 2018;Ebenegger et al., 2012;Landhuis et al., 2007;Martin et al., 2012;Nathanson et al., 2014;Özmert et al., 2002;Soldatova & Vishneva, 2019). Also, the use of digital devices at an early age (2 years and younger) correlates with poor executive function development in senior preschool age (Nathanson et al., 2014). ...
Chapter
Digital gadgets are an important part of the socialization of children in contemporary society. In the context of the gadgets’ important role in the life of children, we have carried out a number of studies in order to understand the specifics of gadgets usage by modern preschoolers. In our research, we studied the relationship between the digital devices use (frequency and digital activity type) and the executive functions in preschoolers. The sample of our study consisted of 417 children (202 boys and 215 girls) aged 6–7 years who attended preparatory groups of Moscow kindergartens. To study how often, for what and in what context children use digital devices, a semi-structured interview was compiled, consisting of 9 questions that required a detailed answer from children. Our research has shown that the use of gadgets as a cultural tool compared to the use of gadgets as an entertainment (playing games and watching cartoons) is associated with a higher level of executive functions development. This is due to the fact that for digital device usage as a psychological means the participation of an adult is required, who shows a child various options for interacting with a gadget and also controls the screen time.KeywordsGadgetsDigital activityCultural toolsScreen timeExecutive functions
... There have been many studies analyzing the relationship between the development of executive functions in preschoolers and the content of what children do and watch via digital devices (Barr et al., 2010;Conners-Burrow et al., 2011;Yang et al., 2017;Zimmerman & Christakis, 2007), as well as their screen time (Christakis et al., 2004;Cliff et al., 2018;Ebenegger et al., 2012;Landhuis et al., 2007;Martin et al., 2012;Nathanson et al., 2014;Özmert et al., 2002;Soldatova & Vishneva, 2019). The overwhelming majority of studies are of a correlational nature, so it is difficult to establish causal relationships with respect to the impact of use of such devices and the consequences for the development of self-regulation. ...
... Moreover, there is research that demonstrates that there are no significant links between use of gadgets and the self-regulation level (Blankson et al., 2015), and the family environment and the social status of the family play a key role in the development of executive functions, self-control, planning and control functions . However, the results of most studies allow us to conclude that the potential impact of the nature and content of activities on the children's self-regulation development depends on the type of exposure (background TV or purposeful use of gadgets), on the type of content (educational or recreational content) Yang et al., 2017;Zimmerman, Christakis, 2007), on the age-appropriateness of the content (age-appropriate or inappropriate, including violent content (Barr et al., 2010;Conners-Burrow et al., 2011), on the degree of its realism (fantastic or realistic content , on the complexity of the stimulus material (black-and-white, color visual or sound stimulation) (Bellieni et al., 2010), on the duration of screen time Nathanson et al., 2014) as well as on individual and family factors. ...
... There are a number of studies describing the relationship between the gadgets' time of use and the level of executive functions development. It has been demonstrated that prolonged use of gadgets correlates with lower indicators of executive functions, self-regulation, attention and hyperactivity (Christakis et al., 2004;Cliff et al., 2018;Ebenegger et al., 2012;Landhuis et al., 2007;Martin et al., 2012;Nathanson et al., 2014;Özmert et al., 2002;Soldatova & Vishneva, 2019). Also, the use of digital devices at an early age (2 years and younger) correlates with poor executive function development in senior preschool age (Nathanson et al., 2014). ...
Chapter
Russian Federation is home to many nationalities that speak more than 120 ethnic languages. The ethnic languages are often spoken in households, whereas the education in kindergartens and schools is carried out, to a great extent, in the official language, Russian. Thus, a large number of Russian children acquire, simultaneously, two or more languages. A growing body of research recognizes the impact of regular dual language use on children’s executive functions and social and emotional development (Halle in Early Childhood Research Quarterly 29:734–739, 2014), though research in the latter two domains is sparse, when compared to the former. More research and from different languages and cultures is needed to shed light on differences in cognitive development between monolingual and bilingual children. The current study focused on the development of executive functions and emotion understanding in bilingual and monolingual Russian preschool children. Bilingual children were recruited in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and Tatarstan, these are two Russian regions where (at least) two languages are used officially. Monolingual children were recruited in the central region of Russia, where, typically, only Russian is spoken. The analysis revealed that, when compared to monolingual peers, bilingual children demonstrated slightly higher results in verbal working memory and motor persistence skills. Monolingual children, on the other hand, outperformed bilingual peers in emotion understanding tasks. The results of the current study provide novel and constructive insights on bilingual child development that can guide educational policymakers in multicultural and multilingual countries, as well as professionals working on psychological adaptation and preparation of bilingual children to school.KeywordsBilingualismCultureLanguageExecutive functionsEmotion understanding
... There have been many studies analyzing the relationship between the development of executive functions in preschoolers and the content of what children do and watch via digital devices (Barr et al., 2010;Conners-Burrow et al., 2011;Yang et al., 2017;Zimmerman & Christakis, 2007), as well as their screen time (Christakis et al., 2004;Cliff et al., 2018;Ebenegger et al., 2012;Landhuis et al., 2007;Martin et al., 2012;Nathanson et al., 2014;Özmert et al., 2002;Soldatova & Vishneva, 2019). The overwhelming majority of studies are of a correlational nature, so it is difficult to establish causal relationships with respect to the impact of use of such devices and the consequences for the development of self-regulation. ...
... Moreover, there is research that demonstrates that there are no significant links between use of gadgets and the self-regulation level (Blankson et al., 2015), and the family environment and the social status of the family play a key role in the development of executive functions, self-control, planning and control functions . However, the results of most studies allow us to conclude that the potential impact of the nature and content of activities on the children's self-regulation development depends on the type of exposure (background TV or purposeful use of gadgets), on the type of content (educational or recreational content) Yang et al., 2017;Zimmerman, Christakis, 2007), on the age-appropriateness of the content (age-appropriate or inappropriate, including violent content (Barr et al., 2010;Conners-Burrow et al., 2011), on the degree of its realism (fantastic or realistic content , on the complexity of the stimulus material (black-and-white, color visual or sound stimulation) (Bellieni et al., 2010), on the duration of screen time Nathanson et al., 2014) as well as on individual and family factors. ...
... There are a number of studies describing the relationship between the gadgets' time of use and the level of executive functions development. It has been demonstrated that prolonged use of gadgets correlates with lower indicators of executive functions, self-regulation, attention and hyperactivity (Christakis et al., 2004;Cliff et al., 2018;Ebenegger et al., 2012;Landhuis et al., 2007;Martin et al., 2012;Nathanson et al., 2014;Özmert et al., 2002;Soldatova & Vishneva, 2019). Also, the use of digital devices at an early age (2 years and younger) correlates with poor executive function development in senior preschool age (Nathanson et al., 2014). ...
Chapter
Early childhood is the period of life in which the conditions of children’s development can have the longest and most significant impacts (Heckman and Masterov, Review of Agricultural Economics 29:446–493, 2007). One of the key activities in the early childhood period—play—will be considered in this chapter from a cultural–historical perspective. Based on theoretical approaches in play research and the research questions of interest to our laboratory at the Lomonosov Moscow State University, we conducted two studies. Based on the common anecdote that play is less valued today than in previous generations, Study 1 sought to explore that if there are significant differences in beliefs between the two generations (parents and grandparents) regarding the value of play in preschool childhood and their willingness to support children's free play in principle and in their participation together with their child or grandchild. Results suggested that the younger generation value play more for its potential academic value than did their parents and, plausibly as a result of this belief, will be more likely to engage in play with their child. The goal of Study 2 was to examine the impact that different roles (protagonist, sage, villain or the child’s normal role) can have on preschooler’s completion of executive functions (EF) tasks, as previous research has not examined whether the imaginary topics themselves might impact children’s real-world abilities differently. The results imply that different roles could have both positive and negative effects on performance on various tasks of EF. Moreover, for children with high levels of EF, it appeared beneficial to adopt a role, whereas low-EF children benefitted from skill training. Findings from this chapter are of a particular relevance for policymakers when developing educational programs as well as when designing teaching trainings for pedagogues and psychologists.
... Further, Nathanson et al. examined the effects of viewing time and background time on EF in young children. They found a negative association between television viewing and background television exposure to EF in young children [12]. However, some studies did not find a relationship between television exposure and attention problems [13,14]. ...
... Alternatively, the results may indicate that the age differences in animation effects on EF in children are not observable between four and seven years. Since infancy is a period of rapid brain development and plasticity, television may impair EF more severely during that time than during other developmental periods [12]. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study used a three (animation types: educational, entertainment, and control groups) × four (age group: four-, five-, six-, and seven-year-olds) between-group experimental design to investigate the short-term effects of animation type and age on each component of children’s executive function (EF) (inhibitory control [IC], cognitive flexibility [CF], and working memory [WM]). One hundred twenty-six kindergarten and first-grade elementary school students in a city in Henan Province of China were selected for the experimental study. The results showed that briefly watching animation affected children’s EF. Specifically, watching entertainment cartoons weakened children’s IC and CF, while cartoons did not affect children’s WM. The moderating effect of age in the relationship between animation type and EFs was non-significant. This study suggests that researchers should focus on the uniqueness of each component of EF in children aged four to seven years, and parents should try to limit children’s viewing of animation, especially entertainment animation.
... Greater early screen exposure is also associated with structural and functional brain changes associated with poorer language development, intelligence, and executive function (13,14) and it has been proposed that high screen exposure early in life could contribute to the impaired social attention mechanisms seen in children with ASD (15). In addition, children with ASD often exhibit challenging behaviors, experience dysregulation, and have difficulties with attention and executive function (16)(17)(18), outcomes associated with higher screen time (19)(20)(21)(22)(23). ...
Article
There is growing concern regarding early screen media exposure and its potential effects on developmental delays including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, there is little research examining whether interventions can decrease screen media exposure and ASD behaviors among children with ASD. Participants were 9 children ages 18 to 40 months with an ASD diagnosis who watched screens at least 2 hours per day. Screen viewing history and weekly screen viewing and social interaction were assessed. The intervention involved a parent education program followed by weekly one‐hour in‐home support visits aimed at replacing screen time with social engagement time over a 6‐month period. Child autism symptoms (Brief Observation of Social Communication Change), functional behavior (Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales), and development (Mullen Scales of early Learning) were assessed before and after intervention; parents completed questionnaires on parental stress (Autism Parenting Stress Index) and their perceptions of the intervention. Children’s screen viewing decreased from an average of 5.6 hours/day prior to intervention to 5 min/day during the study. Significant improvements were observed in core autism symptoms and parent stress from pre‐ to post‐intervention. Parent education and training/support to minimize screen time and increase social interaction for young children with ASD was well‐tolerated by parents and children. These promising preliminary results suggest that further research on early screen media viewing, ASD and screen reduction intervention is warranted.
... Children's use of screen media is in general associated with poorer self-regulation skills; their ability to regulate their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors (Karoly, 1993;Blair & Diamond, 2008). Studies suggest that the relationship between screen media use and self-regulation may be bidirectional such that early screen exposure is predictive of poorer self-regulation skills and children with poorer self-regulation skills are exposed to screens more often (e.g., Radesky et al., 2014;Nathanson et al., 2014;Thompson et al., 2013). It may be that caregivers of children with poorer self-regulation skills and/or with more difficult temperaments allow for more screen time for their children. ...
Chapter
We investigated the use of screen media by Turkish children younger than age six and how this use relates to child-related (e.g., temperament), parent-related (e.g., parental stress), and home-related (e.g., family size) factors via an online survey for parents (N = 1214). Our results showed that children spent more time using screen media in more crowded homes and if their temperament was perceived as more difficult by their parents. Their screen time was also longer when their parents used more screen media, received less support from others, and had more positive attitudes towards technological devices. Furthermore, parental stress was related to parents’ problematic use of mobile devices, which led to more interruptions in parent-child interactions. Our findings suggest that factors related to parents and the home environment are closely linked to children’s screen media consumption.KeywordsScreen mediaMobile devicesSurveyEarly childhood
... By contrast, failing in obtaining competence in a self-regulatory area may pose a risk for future adverse health outcomes [74] and predicts criminal history [73]. It has been hypothesized that screen media exposure in early childhood may influence the process of acquiring self-regulatory skills [75]. Scholars suggest that early onset of device use may decrease chances for developing internal regulatory mechanisms when a screen media is offered as a distraction tool [76]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Screen media are ubiquitous in human life across all age, cultural and socioeconomic groups. The ceaseless and dynamic growth of technological possibilities has given rise to questions regarding their effect on the well-being of children. Research in this area largely consists of cross-sectional studies; experimental and randomized studies are rare, which makes drawing causative conclusions difficult. However, the prevailing approach towards the use of screen media by children has focused on time limitations. The emerging evidence supports a more nuanced perspective. It appears that the older the child, the more important how the screen media are used becomes. Concentrating on the quality of the screen, time has become increasingly relevant in the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated a transfer of educational and social functioning from real-life to the digital world. With this review, we aimed at gathering current knowledge on the correlations of different screen media use and development outcomes, as well as providing an overview of potential benefits that new technologies may provide to the pediatric population. To summarize, if one cannot evade screen time in children, how can we use it for children’s maximum advantage?
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هدفت الدراسة التعرف إلى مدى تحقق المسؤولية الأخلاقية لدى قنوات الأطفال العربية-المجد، والجزيرة للأطفال، وسبيستون، وكارتون نت ورك،وأجيال، وسنا، وكراميش،ونيكليديون، وأم بي سي 3، وطيور الجنة وذلك بالنسبة للمشاركين والأعمال الدرامية والبرامج والإعلانات التجارية، كما تكونت عينة الدراسة من 8 معلمات رياض الأطفال من روضة جمعية فتاة الخليج في الخبر بالمملكة العربية السعودية، واتبعت الدراسة المنهج الوصفي التحليلي، وتمثلت أدوات الدراسة في بطاقة ملاحظة تحمل المسؤولية الأخلاقية في قنوات الأطفال العربية، واستمارة المقابلة شبه المحددة المفتوحة مع المعلمات. وخلصت نتائج الدراسة إلى أن جميع محاور بطاقة الملاحظة لمؤشرات تحقق المسؤولية الأخلاقية المتمثلة في المشاركين والأعمال الدرامية والبرامج التليفزيونية والإعلانات في قنوات الأطفال العربية تراوحت ما بين المتوسط العام 1.80 و1.79 مما أشار إلى أنها بين فئة الضعيف والضعيف جدًا، وحصل محور الأعمال الدرامية على متوسط 1.87 أي في فئة الضعيف، ثم محور البرامج التليفزيونية بمتوسط عام قدره 1.80 أي في فئة الضعيف أيضًا، في حين جاء محورا الإعلانات والمشاركين في فئة الضعيف جدًا بمتوسط 1.44، 1.79 على التوالي. كما خلصت الدراسة من خلال تحليل نتائج المقابلات المفتوحة مع عينة الدراسة من المعلمات إلى التأثير الكبير للمحتوى الإعلامي للقنوات التليفزيونية في سلوك الأطفال وأفكارهم وممارساتهم الحياتية باعتبار ما يقدم لهم على شاشة قنوات التليفزيون منهج تربوي خفي يؤثر في معارفهم وسلوكياتهم.
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Parental beliefs and motivation are instrumental in improving childhood digital media use (DMU). Parents (n = 611) completed questionnaires about childhood DMU assessing knowledge, interest in counseling, motivation to change, self-efficacy, and beliefs. Less than a third correctly recognized screen time limits. Twenty-seven percent received childhood DMU information from a doctor, while 46% stated they would like such information. Only 2% had a doctor-recommended DMU plan. Interest in DMU topics, motivation to improve, and management self-efficacy were moderate. Top negative beliefs were addiction to DMU (52%), sleep problems (39%), obesity (33%), social skills (33%), and inappropriate content (32%). Differences between age categories existed for social (48%, P = .01) and language (14%, P = .01) concerns (highest for toddlers), attention concerns (27%, P = .02; highest in preschoolers), and depression (13%, P < .001) and low self-esteem (8%, P = .04; highest in teens). Findings support further development of approaches to address DMU, tailored by age-specific common parental views.
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Full-text available
Purpose Play is a powerful influence on children's learning and parents can provide opportunities to learn specific content by scaffolding children's play. Parent-child synchrony (i.e., harmony, reciprocity and responsiveness in interactions) is a component of parent-child interactions that is not well characterized in studies of play. Procedures We tested whether children's executive function relates to mother-child synchrony during physical and digital play in sixty mother-child dyads. Main findings Mother-child synchrony did not relate to children's executive function or differ by play type (physical, digital), though during digital play mother-child synchrony was higher for girls relative to boys. Conclusions The findings suggest that mother-child synchrony is not influenced by children's executive function and physical and digital play can be similarly beneficial in offering the opportunity for responsive, reciprocal, dynamic interactions. The sex difference suggests that further factors should be explored as influences of play synchrony
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This study described the relations among the amount of child-directed versus adult-directed television exposure at ages I and 4 with cognitive outcomes at age 4. Sixty parents completed 24-hour television diaries when their children were 1 and 4 years of age. At age 4, their children also completed a series of cognitive measures and parents completed an assessment of their children's executive functioning skills. High levels of exposure to programs designed for adults during both infancy and at age 4, and high levels of household television use at age 4, were all associated with poorer executive functioning of age 4. High exposure to television programs designed for adults during the preschool years was also associated with poorer cognitive outcomes at age 4. In contrast, exposure to television programs designed for young children at either time point was not associated with any outcome measure at age 4. These results suggest that exposure to child-directed versus adult-directed television content is an important factor in understanding the relation between media exposure and developmental outcomes.
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There is a paucity of studies of infants’ and toddlers’ preferences of television content. This home observation study investigated how young children’s attention to television is determined by auditory, visual, and content features of the program and by program difficulty. Fifty 6- to 58-month-olds were presented with a videotape consisting of segments of the news, Sesame Street, Teletubbies, and Lion King II. Results agreed with the moderate-discrepancy hypothesis, which states that young children pay most attention to television content that is only moderately discrepant from their existing knowledge and capabilities. Among infants, salient auditory and visual features (e.g., applause, visual surprises) particularly attracted their attention. These features also attracted older children’s attention, but older children predominantly allocated their attention to television content on the basis of nonsalient (e.g., moderate character action) and content features (e.g., letters/numbers, meaningful dialogue). The attentional shift from salient to nonsalient and content features started between 1.5 and 2.5 years of age.
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Executive function (EF), which refers to the more deliberate, top-down neurocognitive processes involved in self-regulation, develops most rapidly during the preschool years, together with the growth of neural networks involving prefrontal cortex but continues to develop well into adulthood. Both EF and the neural systems supporting EF vary as a function of motivational significance, and this article discusses the distinction between the top-down processes that operate in motivationally and emotionally significant situations (“hot EF”) and the top-down processes that operate is more affectively neutral contexts (“cool EF”). Emerging evidence indicates that both hot and cool EF are surprisingly malleable, with implications for intervention and prevention.
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This study explored the relation between preschoolers' television exposure and one important indicator of cognitive processing called theory of mind (ToM). A total of 107 preschoolers and their parents provided data on the preschoolers' television exposure (including both intentional viewing and exposure via background television), parent–child discussion of television, and preschoolers' ToM. The results indicated that preschoolers who were exposed to more background television and who had a television in their bedroom performed more poorly on ToM assessments compared with other children. Parent–child discussion of television was positively related to ToM performance, however. These results have implications for how we understand the effects of television on preschoolers.
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There has long been speculation as to the development of behaviors attributed to frontal lobe functioning in children. Controversy exists as to when behaviors attributed to frontal lobe functioning become fully developed. This study examined the performance of normal male and female children at four age levels between 6 and 12 years of age. Performance on verbal and nonverbal proactive and retroactive inhibition, verbal and nonverbal conflict, and two perseve‐ration tasks was assessed. The results suggested that in children, the development of behaviors associated with frontal lobe functioning is a multistage process. The greatest period of development appeared to occur at the 6‐ and 8‐year‐old levels. By the age of 10, the ability to inhibit attention to irrelevant stimuli and perseveratory responses was fairly complete, with mastery evident by age 12.