The BBC launched their first TV programme for under 5 year olds 60 years ago in 1952:. It was called Watch with Mother. In fact one of my oldest memories is of watching the Flower Pot Men with my Mum. Yet research from the UK, the USA and Australia is now showing that many infants now watch TV almost exclusively on their own. The most significant challenge for early childhood ICT designers is now also often considered to be the challenge of providing the child with independent accessibility, so that they can play (and learn) on their own. Yet the consequences of encouraging such passive viewing that are identified by the research are stark.
One major study found that 10% of children who were watching an average of 2.2 hours of television per day at age one, and 3.6 hours at age three had attention problems at age seven. Many more studies show correlations between TV viewing and obesity. Yet it doesn’t have to be like that. Research shows that when parents watch programmes with their children, the children tend to watch less television, and they also gain more from the experience. The same principles apply to other ICT applications in the home, and Made in Me is showing that computer software can be developed specifically for the purpose of adults and children sharing the playful learning experience.
The key lessons to be learned from the case of television is in fact transferable to all screen-based media: where there have been problems, they have not been the result of the media or the technology itself, but the way in which it is sometimes being used.
See more on this in the Guardian newspaper here.