Development in Children Under Age 2 Years (Zimmerman et al., 2007)
Nearly every theory of language development recognizes that there is a critical period for learning language. During this critical period a child must receive environmental input for normal development. Parents and caregivers are an extremely important piece of this environmental input and the best way for caregivers to teach their children language is to simply talk to them—a lot. We know that children often say their first word between the ages of 11 and 14 months, and there continues to be a lot of variability in language development; is this a result of nature or nurture? Zimmerman, Christakis, and Meltzoff (2007) studied the effects of media viewing on language development in children under 2 to see if this, as a part of nurture, has a negative consequence on language.
A random sample of 1008 parents and their children was included in this study about the effect of media exposure on infants’ and toddlers’ language development. The types of media were categorized into 4 groups: children’s educational, children’s noneducational, baby DVDs/videos, and grownup TV. The study controlled for race/ethnicity, time spent in daycare, household income, parental education, and most importantly parental interaction with their children in the areas of reading, storytelling, and music.
This study measured infants’ and toddlers’ language development using the short-form Communicative Development Inventory (CDI). The CDI is a reliable and valid means of measuring linguistic and communicative development. The study found that reading and telling stories at least once per day each was correlated with an increase in CDI score for both 8- to 16-month olds and 17- to 24- month olds; however, telling stories was found to be more significantly associated with CDI scores in the younger verses the older age group. Listening to music with children was found to have no significant effect on CDI scores. In the 8- to 16-month old group, each hour of watching baby DVDs/videos per day was associated with a significantly lower CDI score than is normal for the age. No other significant associations of media exposure with CDI scores were found for either age group (Zimmerman et al., 2007).
Zimmerman discusses three possible reasons for the significant decrease in CDI scores for every hour that 8- to 16-month olds watch baby DVDs/ videos. The first is that since a lot of baby DVDs/videos advertise that that they will promote cognitive, language, and brain development, parents whose children already struggle in these areas may have their children watch baby DVDs as a means of help. A second reason may be the involvement of an unknown third variable that is related to both CDI scores and the amount of time spent watching baby DVS/videos. This variable, for example, may be caregivers who are less motivated to actively participate in their children’s language development and therefore rely on television to...