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Fast-paced TV shows don't harm preschoolers' concentration

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Watching fast-paced television programmes does not adversely affect young children’s ability to concentrate.

This is the finding of a study by Dr Alexandra Lamont, Dr Sarah Rose and Dr Nicholas Reyland from Keele University that was presented Friday 5 September 2014 at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section annual conference in Amsterdam.

Dr Lamont, lead author of the study explained: “There is a widely held belief that television watching in young children is responsible for behavioural problems, attention deficits, and developmental challenges, but there is little research that has addressed this to date for young audiences”.

In the current study 41 three and four year old children watched a slow and a fast paced version of Postman Pat before completing a block building task and tests of programme comprehension.

Children paid more attention to the fast paced programme, and although younger children seemed to pay less attention and put less effort in to the block building task after watching the fast paced programme, all the children performed slightly better on this task after watching this programme. There was no difference in their comprehension of the two programmes.

Dr Lamont said: “We know that the pace of children’s television has rapidly increased in recent years.  It’s reassuring to discover that fast-paced programmes have no detrimental effects on young children’s behaviour in the short term, and important to know that they sustain children’s attention and may even give them a slight boost in ability to undertake other tasks. In this very complex area there are clearly still more questions to answer, but we are providing some evidence to counter the supposed ‘harm’ that comes from the increasing pace of technology for young children.”

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British Psychological Society (BPS)