Monday, February 04, 2008

Children, Television, and Attention Deficit

I enjoyed reading a recent post about a child's perspective on ADHD on Well (New York Times), one of my new favorite blogs.

Some of the comments mentioned television, which prompted me to post this comment (#71):

There is some evidence to suggest that the link between television and ADHD is possible, although much more research would be needed before a causal link is documented.

We know that many structural features of television cause automatic reallocation of attention resources. The most studied of these structural features is the camera change, or edit (from one camera shot to another). It is impossible to notice at the conscious level, but every time the camera changes, the brain is momentarily confused about what happened. This makes sense if you think that the entire visual screen changed in 1/30th of a second (in the United States).

Several academic studies — starting with the work of Dr. Annie Lang of Indiana University in 1990 — have shown that camera changes lead to orienting reflexes, which lead to automatic reallocation of attentional resources.

Television tends to be increasingly fast-paced (i.e., frequent camera changes) these days, and we know that fast-paced television can overload the cognitive processing of viewers. This is especially true when there are more than 10 camera changes per 30 seconds. Ironically, my kids are watching TV in the same room right now, and this kind of fast pacing does indeed occur in limited stretches. I just counted.

So it is possible — although far from documented yet — that fast-paced television is “teaching” the brains of children to expect a world full of rapid visual change — far more change than one would expect in the natural world. Thus it follows that perhaps these brains crave change and therefore seek change when it is not present. Again, it’s *possible.*

The data suggest that it’s not just television — but the type of television — that may be to blame. As someone who conducts research in this area, I would not expect boring, slow-paced television to exhibit much of an effect. Parents: Have your kids watch C-SPAN! Of course, children (like adults) prefer faster pacing, which is part of the problem. We like the content that is most likely to be bad for us.

— Posted by Samuel D. Bradley

I kid you not when I say that I wrote this with my laptop in the living room as three of my four daughters watched TV in front of my. In part due to concerns about brain rewiring, the baby is not allowed to even face the television.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's a choice between TV and no TV, the answer is ALWAYS no TV :)

10:31 PM  
Blogger IUAngelini said...

TV leading to ADHD - I think that would explain a lot.

11:27 AM  

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